WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Reform movement, the National Council of Jewish Women and Jewish Women International opposed a Republican version of the Violence Against Women Act.
The version of a reauthorization passed Wednesday by the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives removes new protections added by the Democratic-led Senate that would extend explicit protections to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community and facilitate protections within Native American judicial systems.
The House version also adds tough restrictions to existing protections for illegal immigrants. Under current law, such immigrants may be protected through the "U visa" system that extends legal status to undocumented immigrants who cooperate with law enforcement.
Democrats say the new House restrictions, which would add a review process common to other immigrant visa applications, could expose victims to their attackers by delaying the process and making the application public.
Republican lawmakers say the protections for LGBT and Native American communities included in a version of the bill approved by the Senate earlier this year are unnecessary and costly. The GOP says the existing immigrant protections stripped out in the House version provide a back door to citizenship.
NCJW said in a statement Wednesday that the House version "includes damaging provisions that roll back years of progress to protect the safety of immigrant victims. It will create obstacles for those victims seeking to report crimes, putting them in increased danger."
The first Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994.
The Reform movement’s Religious Action Center in an action alert asked members to urge lawmakers to oppose the House version, saying it "prioritizes some victims over others" and "is not the bipartisan solution that we seek."
Jewish Women International lamented that " the House of Representatives regrettably passed a bill that undercuts VAWA’s historic successes and endangers victims of violence."
The House Democratic leadership has asked Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the majority leader and a sponsor of the bill, to also allow a vote on the Senate version.
President Obama has said he will veto the House version should its provisions survive conference talks with the Senate.
"NCJW urges the House-Senate conference committee to adopt a VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) reauthorization proposal that mirrors the bipartisan proposal passed by the Senate in order to continue and improve domestic violence programs critical to maintaining the significant progress to date in increased reporting and decreased deaths during the time VAWA has been in effect," the group said in its statement.