H.R. 4970: Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2012

H.R. 4970

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2012

Sponsor
Sen. Bernard Sanders

Date
May 16, 2012 (112th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, May 16, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 4970, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) of 2012 under a rule.  The bill was introduced on April 27, 2012, by Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) and referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.  The Committee held a markup of the bill on May 8, 2012, and reported the bill, as amended, by a vote of 17 – 15. 

Bill Summary

H.R. 4970 would reauthorize funding for VAWA grant programs for five years, and would authorize $660 million in funding per year to help prevent domestic violence and protect victims of abuse.  In addition, H.R. 4970 would establish new federal crimes and broaden the coverage of existing crimes relating to violence against women.  The bill would reduce the number of individuals with legal permanent resident (LPR) status, which would effectively decrease direct spending in a number of programs.

 

Section 1.  Short Title. 

 

Section 2.  Table of Contents. 

 

Section 3. Universal Definitions and Grant Conditions. 

 

This section would revise the grant conditions that apply to all VAWA programs, including: providers of legal assistance must be sufficiently trained or experienced in providing such assistance to victims consistent with the requirements in the Legal Assistance to Victims program; restrictions on disclosure of victims’ confidential and personally identifying information; provides grantees with the ability to advocate for state, local or tribal legislation to better respond to the needs of victims; and updates the anti-discrimination provision for VAWA grantees.

 

Section 4.  Accountability Provisions. 

 

This section would require VAWA audits to be performed by the Office of Audit, Assessment, and Management (OAAM) in the Department of Justice (DOJ), would require grantees to identify other sources of federal grant funding in their applications, and would require the Attorney General to improve the coordination between the grant-making offices to reduce duplication and overlap. 

 

This section would impose new accountability requirements on DOJ, Health and Human Services (HHS) and VAWA grantees, including the following:

 

  • Requiring the DOJ and HHS Inspector Generals to conduct an annual audit of no fewer than 10 percent of all VAWA grant recipients;
  • Requiring the DOJ to deposit into the General Fund of the Treasury the equivalent of monies awarded to a grantee barred by an IG finding and seek to recoup the funds from the grantee;
  • Prohibiting the use of grant funds to lobby DOJ, Congress or state or local governments regarding the award of grant funding;
  • Requiring a grantee found to be in violation of these prohibitions to repay the grant in full and prohibiting them from receiving another grant under this Act for five years;
  • Prohibiting the award of grant funds to nonprofit organizations that hold money in offshore accounts for the purposes of avoiding federal taxes;
  • Limiting the use of funds for salaries and administrative expenses to five percent of funds authorized under the Act; and
  • Prohibiting the use of funds to host or support any expenditure for conferences unless such conference receives prior written approval by the Deputy Attorney General, appropriate Assistant Attorney General or the Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services.

 

TITLE I -- ENHANCING JUDICIAL AND LAW ENFORCEMENT TOOLS TO COMBAT VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

 

Section 101.  STOP Grants. 

 

This section would reauthorize the STOP (Services-Training-Officers-Prosecutors) grant program for five years.  The bill would reduce authorized funding for STOP from $225 million to $222 million annually. The STOP grant is the primary VAWA formula grant program to state and local governments to address the crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.  Currently, each state, U.S. territory, and the District of Columbia receives grants according to a statutory formula.  Recipients can then subgrant these funds to state agencies, state and local courts, units of local government, tribal governments, and nonprofit, nongovernmental victim services providers.  The bill would increase the emphasis on training and enforcement of crimes of sexual violence, would add the offense of stalking to grant purpose areas, would promote efforts to reduce rape kit backlogs, and would include a 20 percent set-aside for sexual assault programs.

 

This section would streamline the application process for the STOP program, which currently requires states to provide extensive documentation that is of little use to the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) in monitoring the use of funds, and instead would require the state to develop a comprehensive implementation plan addressing how it will spend the funds received.

 

Section 102. Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies and Enforce Protection Orders. 

 

This section would reauthorize the Arrest program for five years.  The authorized funding for Arrest would be reduced from $75 million to $73 million annually.  The Arrest program is the primary discretionary grant to help state, local, and tribal governments and agencies investigate and prosecute instances of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  This section would increase the emphasis on sexual assault offenses by promoting the implementation of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner programs, Forensic Examiner programs, Sexual Assault Response Teams, and programs to reduce rape kit backlogs.  This section would set aside 25 percent of the available amounts for sexual assault offenses.

 

This section would modify the requirement that state and local government grant recipients certify that they test sex offenders for HIV at the request of the victim within 48 hours of information or indictment and provide the results of the testing to the victim.  Grantees that cannot certify in this manner lose five percent of the funding from their grant.  Current law makes no allowance for jurisdictions that must exceed the 48-hour limit when offenders are not in custody or otherwise easily accessible.  This section would clarify that the test be performed within 48 hours of the offender being in custody or served with the information or indictment.

 

This section would clarify the provision that requires grantees to certify that they do not charge victims for costs associated with the modification, enforcement or dismissal of a protection order.

 

Section 103. Legal Assistance for Victims. 

 

This section would reauthorize the Legal Assistance for Victims (LAV) program for five years.  The authorized funding for LAV would be reduced from $65 million to $57 million annually.  This section would expand the training requirements for eligible entities to ensure that they have the relevant expertise in providing legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  Those without such expertise may provide assistance only if they complete appropriate training in this area of law and also practice while partnered with a legal assistance provider with demonstrated expertise.  This section would allow grantees to recruit, train, and mentor pro bono attorneys and law students.

 

Section 104. Consolidated Grants to Support Families in the Justice System.  

 

This section would consolidate two programs that train judges and court personnel regarding the intersection between domestic violence and family court proceedings and promotes safe supervised visitation for families in cases involving domestic violence and sexual assault.  The single grant program created by this consolidation would be authorized for five years.  The authorization would be reduced from $25 million to $22 million annually. 

 

Section 105. Court-Appointed Special Advocate Program.  

 

This section would reauthorize the Court-Appointed Special Advocate program for five years.  The program would provide assistance to child victims of abuse or neglect.  The bill would include a new annual reporting requirement.  Authorized funding for this program would remain at $12 million annually.

 

Section 106. Outreach and Services to Underserved Populations Grant. 

 

This section would remove the existing Outreach to Underserved Populations grant program, which focused exclusively on public information campaigns, and would replace it with a program offering services to adult and youth victims in underserved communities.  Outreach, education, prevention, and intervention strategies would remain an allowable purpose for the grant funding. The current $2 million authorization levels for this program would not change, but would be augmented with a two percent set-aside from funds appropriated to the STOP and Arrest programs.

 

Section 107. Culturally-Specific Services Grant. 

 

This section would remove the term “linguistically” which has caused confusion about the purpose of the program.  Many entities that provide culturally specific programming but not linguistically specific programming mistakenly believed they would not be eligible.  This change would clarify that the program is not limited to linguistically specific services.  Funding for this program would not change and would continue to be drawn from set-asides from the Arrest, LAV, Rural, Elder, and Disabilities programs.

 

Section 108.  Reduction in Rape Kit Backlog. 

 

This section would amend the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000 to require that no less than 75 percent of the grant amounts awarded be spent on analyzing untested DNA evidence from crime scenes, or enhancing the capacity of labs to do so.

 

Section 109.  Assistance to Victims of Sexual Assault. 

 

This section would reauthorize grants to assist probation and parole officers and other personnel who work with released sex offenders.  The bill would authorize funding for this program at the current level of $5 million annually.

 

Section 110.  Child Abuse Training Programs for Judicial Personnel and Practitioners. 

 

This section would reauthorize grants to provide judicial and legal professionals with training and technical assistance to address the unique challenges facing juvenile and family courts.  The bill would authorize funding for this program at the current level of $2.3 million annually.

 

TITLE II -- IMPROVING SERVICES FOR VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, DATING VIOLENCE, SEXUAL ASSAULT, AND STALKING

 

Section 201. Sexual Assault Services Program.  

 

The Sexual Assault Services Program (SASP) provides assistance to victims of sexual assault. SASP provides grants to states and territories, tribes, state sexual assault coalitions, tribal coalitions, and culturally specific organizations, without regard to the age of the victim.  This section would implement a new funding formula whereby each State, territory and the District of Columbia receive a minimum allocation of .75 percent of funds appropriated.  The authorized funding for SASP would be reduced from $50 million to $40 million for each of the fiscal years 2013 through 2017.

 

Section 202. Rural Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, Stalking, and Child Abuse Enforcement Assistance. 

 

The Rural Grant Program addresses the unique challenges faced by victims of domestic violence and dating violence in rural jurisdictions.  It encourages cooperation among law enforcement and victim service providers, among others, to investigate criminal incidents and provide treatment, education, and prevention strategies.  This section would strengthen responses to sexual assault through the inclusion of additional purpose areas.  It would also incorporate the use of multidisciplinary teams to address and prevent domestic and dating violence homicide.  This section would provide for legal assistance and other victim services as well as programs to address rape kit backlogs.  The bill would reduce funding for the Rural Grant Program from $55 million to $50 million for each of the fiscal years 2013 through 2017.

 

Section 203. Training and Services to End Violence Against Women with Disabilities Grant. 

 

The Disability grant program addresses the gaps in abuse suffered by domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking victims with disabilities.  This section would reauthorize the program and adds the use of evidence-based indicators to assess the risk of domestic and dating violence homicide.  The bill would reduce funding for the Disability grant program from $10 million to $9 million annually.

 

Section 204. Training and Services to End Violence Against Women in Later Life Grant.

 

This section would strike the existing Elder Abuse grant program and replaces it with a more comprehensive response to this problem.  The program funds grantees to train law enforcement and prosecutors in recognizing and responding to elder abuse and provide services for victims of elder abuse.  This section would add that entities may also educate and train health care providers, faith-based leaders, and conduct outreach activities to ensure that victims of elder abuse receive appropriate assistance.  This section would instruct the Attorney General to consult the Secretary of HHS to ensure that the Elder Abuse grants administered by DOJ do not duplicate those administered by HHS.  The bill would reduce funding for the Elder Abuse grant program from $10 million to $9 million annually.

 

TITLE III – SERVICES, PROTECTION, AND JUSTICE FOR YOUNG VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE

 

Section 301. Rape Prevention Education Grant. 

 

The Rape Prevention Education (RPE) grant program supports the efforts of rape crisis centers, sexual assault coalitions, and other nonprofit organizations to educate and increase awareness on how to prevent sexual assaults.  Funding is distributed to states based on population.  The bill would reduce funding for RPE from $80 million to $50 million for each of the fiscal years 2013 through 2017.

 

Section 302. Creating Hope through Outreach, Options, Services, and Education for Children and Youth.  

 

This section, along with section 402, would consolidate eight existing grants to provide services for children and youth victims, such as counseling, mentoring, and legal assistance, as well as training and assistance to personnel at middle and high schools who can help victims.  Grantees may be victim service providers and community-based organizations that are encouraged to partner with state, tribal, and local governments, and other agencies that work with children and youth.  This section would also require the grant funds made available be used to provide evidence-based programs and training.  The bill would authorize funding for this consolidated grant program at $15 million annually, a $15 million reduction from the $30 million authorized by the individual programs.

 

Section 303. Grants to Combat Violent Crimes on Campuses. 

 

The Campus program encourages institutions of higher education to partner with community-based organizations to adopt comprehensive, coordinated responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  This section would clarify that a grantee must address the following four components to meet minimum requirements during the grant period: 

 

(1)     Implement a coordinated community response both internal to and external to the campus;

(2)     Provide prevention education for all incoming students;

(3)     Provide training on domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking for campus law enforcement; and

(4)     Provide training on such crimes to members of the campus judicial board. 

 

The bill would reduce funding for the Campus program from $15 million to $12 million annually.

 

Section 304. National Center for Campus Public Safety. 

 

This section would authorize the Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) to establish and operate a National Center for Campus Public Safety to do the following:

 

(1)     Train Institutes of Higher Education (IHE) public safety agencies and their collaborative partners;

(2)     Foster relevant research;

(3)     Collect, coordinate, and disseminate information and best practices regarding campus safety;

(4)     Develop protocols to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from natural and man-made emergencies that threaten the campus community; and

(5)     Increase cooperation between IHEs and the law enforcement, mental health, and other agencies and jurisdictions that serve them.

 

This section would authorize the Director to award grants to IHEs and other nonprofit organizations for activities that will assist the Center in performing its functions.  The bill would require that in establishing the Center, the Director of the COPS Office must coordinate with the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of Education, and the Attorney General of each state, and coordinate the establishment and operation of the Center with campus public safety resources that may be available within DHS and the Department of Education.

 

TITLE IV – VIOLENCE REDUCTION PRACTICES

 

Section 401. Study Conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

This section would reauthorize funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide grants to academic institutions and organizations to conduct research that examine best practices for reducing and preventing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  The authorized funding for this research would be reduced from $2 million to $1 million annually.

 

Section 402. Saving Money and Reducing Tragedies (SMART) through Prevention Grant. 

 

This section would consolidate four programs into one grant aimed at prevention.  The new SMART grant provides funds for three primary purposes: (1) raising awareness and changing attitudes about teen dating violence; (2) preventing, reducing, and responding to children’s exposure to violence at home; and (3) helping men to serve as role models in preventing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  This section would reduce the authorization from $37 million to $15 million annually.

 

TITLE V – STRENGTHENING THE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM’S RESPONSE TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, DATING VIOLENCE, SEXUAL ASSAULT, AND STALKING

 

Section 501. Consolidated Grants to Strengthen the Healthcare System's Response to Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking.  

 

This section would consolidate three existing VAWA programs related to the healthcare system’s response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking and creates a comprehensive updated program that focuses on grants for developing interdisciplinary training for health professionals and education programs for health students.  It would also  encourage the development of comprehensive strategies to improve the response of hospitals, clinics, and other public health facilities to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  A grantee may be a nonprofit organization, a healthcare provider, an accredited healthcare school, or a state, local, or tribal governmental entity.  Grantees would also be required to comply with relevant confidentiality and nondisclosure requirements. The authorized funding for this consolidated program would be $10 million annually, a $3 million reduction from the $13 million authorized for the individual programs.

 

TITLE VI – SAFE HOMES FOR VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, DATING VIOLENCE, SEXUAL ASSAULT, AND STALKING

 

Section 601. Housing protections of victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. 

 

The 2005 reauthorization of VAWA added protections that prevented applicants from being evicted from or denied admission to certain housing programs because they were victims.  This section would modify these protections to extend the housing protections to victims of sexual assault.  The VAWA housing protections are extended to nine federal programs that are not covered currently, including the McKinney-Vento Act, which provides housing for the homeless, the HOME Improvement Partnership Program, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, and the Rural Housing Services program. There are no funds authorized for this section.

 

Section 602. Transitional Housing Assistance Grants for Victims of Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking. 

 

This section would reauthorize the Transitional Housing Assistance program for five years.  The bill would reduce funding for Transitional Housing from $40 million to $35 million annually.  The program provides transitional housing services that move individuals into permanent housing and for victims for whom emergency shelter services are unavailable or insufficient.  This sectin would clarify that a qualified applicant is one whose policies protect victim safety, reflect an understanding of the dynamics of the four covered crimes, and do not include prohibited activities such as background checks or clinical evaluations to determine eligibility for services.

 

Section 603. Addressing the Housing needs of victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

 

This section would reauthorize two VAWA housing programs for five years.  The authorized funding for each program would be reduced from $10 million to $4 million annually.  The first program would award grant funds to entities that assist victims who are currently homeless or at risk of becoming homeless by designing and implementing new activities, services, and programs to increase their stability and self-sufficiency.  The second program would provide grants to promote full and equal access to housing by adult and youth victims.

 

TITLE VII – ECONOMIC SECURITY FOR VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE

 

Section 701. National Resource Center on Workplace Responses to assist victims of domestic and sexual violence. 

 

This section would reauthorize funding for the operation of the National Resource Center on Workplace Responses, which provides information and assistance to employers to aid in efforts to develop and implement responses to domestic and sexual violence.  The bill would authorize funding for the National Resource Center at its current level of $1 million annually.

 

TITLE VIII – IMMIGRATION PROVISIONS

 

Section 801. Fraud Prevention Initiatives.

 

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), illegal immigrants can apply for “cancellation of removal” and to become permanent residents if they have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent, have lived in the U.S. for three years, have been of good moral character and if their removal would result in extreme hardship to the alien, the alien’s child, or the alien’s parent.   H.R. 4970 would clarify that in acting on such a cancellation application, an immigration judge shall consider any credible evidence, including that submitted by the U.S. citizen or permanent resident accused of the abuse. 

 

Under the INA, U.S. citizens and permanent residents can petition for alien spouses to receive permanent residence.  In instances where the aliens (or the aliens’ children) have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty, the aliens can petition for permanent residence on their own – they can “self-petition”.  Abused children of citizens and permanent residents and abused parents of U.S. citizens can also self-petition for permanent residence.  The bill would provide that such self-petitions are to be adjudicated by local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices and that the offices shall interview in-person the self-petitioning aliens and may interview the U.S. citizens or permanent residents accused of abuse and other persons if they consent to be interviewed.  All interviews would be conducted under oath and or subject to applicable penalties for perjury.  The offices can also gather other evidence.  All credible evidence provided by the U.S. citizens or permanent residents accused of abuse would be considered by the local office. 

 

The bill would additionally provide that the local USCIS office shall not approve a self-petition unless it finds in writing and with particularity that all requirements of the INA have been proven by clear and convincing evidence (including that the self-petitioning alien was a victim of battery or extreme cruelty).  It would also provide that the local USCIS office must determine whether any federal, state, territorial, tribal, or local law enforcement agency has undertaken an investigation or prosecution of the abusive conduct alleged by the self-petitioning alien.  If so, the local office must obtain as much information as possible about the investigation or prosecution and shall consider that information in adjudicating the self-petition.  If an investigation or prosecution is pending, adjudication of the self-petition would be stayed pending the conclusion of the investigation or prosecution.  If no investigation or prosecution has been undertaken, the local office would take this into consideration in adjudicating the self-petition.

 

The bill would also provide that if the local office makes a written finding that the self-petitioning alien has made a material misrepresentation on their petition, during an interview, or during any other aspect of the adjudication of the self-petition, the self-petition shall be denied and the alien shall be removed from the U.S. on an expedited basis (and not be eligible for any delay or exemption from removal), must be permanently ineligible for any lawful immigration status or benefits, and would have any public benefits terminated (along with those of the alien’s beneficiaries).  Also, if the local office has received any evidence of a material misrepresentation, the office must refer the matter and all evidence to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  

 

H.R. 4970 would also provide that if a self-petition has been denied, any obligation under an affidavit of support previously filed by the U.S. citizen or permanent resident accused of abuse shall be terminated.

 

Section 802. Clarification of the Requirements Applicable to U-Visas.

 

U-visas are temporary visas available to illegal immigrants who are victims of certain specified criminal activity in the U.S.  To be eligible, a federal, state, or local law enforcement official, prosecutor, judge or other official investigating the crime, or certain Department of Homeland Security officials, must certify that the alien has been, is, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.  The bill would require the certification provided by an alien along with the U-visa petition confirm under oath that such criminal activity is actively under investigation or a prosecution has commenced and that an alien seeking a U-visa has actually provided law enforcement with information that will assist in identifying the responsible criminals (unless their identity is already known).

 

Section 803. Protections for a Fiancée of a Citizen.

 

The INA provides that before the State Department can issue a temporary visa to the fiancée (“K-1”) or spouse (“K-2”) of a U.S. citizen, the petition filed by the citizen must include information on any specified crimes for which the citizen has been convicted.  H.R. 4970 would provide that the petition also must contain information on convictions for attempts to commit these crimes and on any permanent protection or restraining orders issued against the citizen.

 

Section 804. Regulation of International Marriage Brokers. 

 

The “International Marriage Broker Act of 2005 (“IMBA”) prohibits international marriage brokers from providing anyone with the personal contact information, photographs, or general information about the background or interests of any persons under the age of 18 and more generally requires that certain information be provided to alien applicants for K-1 or K-2 visas. 

 

This section would require the Attorney General to report to Congress on the name of the component of the Justice Department responsible for prosecuting violations of the IMBA. 

 

This section would amend the IMBA to require that an international marriage broker obtain, retain for a specified period, and produce upon the request of the Department of Justice the birth certificate or other proof of age document of each foreign national client.   

 

Under IMBA, international marriage brokers must collect certifications by their U.S. clients including information on any arrests or conviction in the U.S. for certain specified crimes.  This section would also require the provision of information on arrests or convictions for attempts to commit such crimes.

 

Section 805. GAO Report. 

 

The bill would require that the Government Accountability Office prepare a report to Congress on the approval processes for U-visa petitions and self-petitions for permanent residence filed by battered aliens in order to assess safeguards against fraud and abuse.

 

Section 806. Temporary Nature of U-Visa Status. 

 

The INA provides that the Department of Homeland Security can grant U-visa recipients the status of permanent residents if they have had U-visas for three years and their continued presence in the U.S. would be justified on humanitarian grounds, to ensure family unity, or was otherwise in the public interest.  This section would rescind this authority to grant permanent residence to U-visa recipients, and would apply to applications for adjustment of status submitted on or after the date of enactment of this bill and to previously filed applications that are pending on the date of enactment. 

 

Section 807. Annual Report on Immigration Applications Made by Victims of Abuse.  

 

The bill would require that the Department of Homeland Security report to Congress each year on the U-visa program, the T-visa program (for victims of trafficking) and the self-petition process for battered aliens, including information on processing times and efforts to reduce processing times while ensuring safe and competent processing and while combating fraud and ensuring program integrity, and information on each type of criminal activity by reason of which aliens received U-visas.

 

Section 808. Protection for Children of VAWA Self-Petitioners. 

 

This section would provide that if a self-petitioner dies, the minor children of the alien can still have their derivative petitions for permanent residence adjudicated.

 

Section 809. Public Charge. 

 

This section would provide that the public charge ground of inadmissibility would not apply to self-petitioners, aliens who have applied for or been granted U-visas, and certain other battered aliens.

 

Section 810. Age-Out Protection for U-Visa Applicants.

 

The minor sons and daughters of U-visa recipients are eligible for U-visas on a derivative basis.  This section would provide that if they turn 21 while their U-visa petitions are being adjudicated, they would retain their status as minors for purpose of eligibility.

 

Section 811. Hardship Waivers.

 

Pursuant to the INA, two years after an alien spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident receives conditional permanent residence, USCIS determines whether the marriage is ongoing and was not entered into fraudulently and if so removes the conditional status of the permanent residence.  The two spouses must jointly file a petition to seek removal of the conditional status and appear for an interview.  USCIS has the discretion to remove the conditional status without the necessity for a joint petition and interview if extreme hardship would result should the alien be removed, the marriage ended in divorce or the alien was battered or subjected to extreme cruelty.  This section would extend USCIS’s discretion to cases of aliens who were battered or subject to extreme cruelty after unknowingly entering into bigamous marriages.

 

Section 812.  Information Sharing for National Security Purpose.

 

The U.S. Code provides that officials of the Departments of Justice, State, and Homeland Security may not permit use by or disclosure to anyone (other than officials of these agencies for legitimate agency purposes) of any information which relates to aliens who are the beneficiaries of applications for U and T visas, self-petitions for permanent residence, applicants for cancellation of removal as battered aliens, and for certain other immigration benefits.  The U.S. Code provides for certain exceptions to this prohibition, including for the provision of information to law enforcement officials for law enforcement purposes. 

 

This section would add to the waivers by providing a waiver for the Departments of Justice, State and Homeland Security, allowing them to provide for the disclosure of information to national security officials to be used solely for a national security purpose in a manner that protects the confidentiality of such information.

 

This section would require that within 180 days of enactment, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to provide guidance to employees who have access to the information, including provisions to protect victims of domestic violence from harm that could result from inappropriate disclosure.  This section would clarify that guidance should also be provided regarding protecting victims of trafficking in persons and specified criminal activity from the harms of inappropriate disclosure.

 

Section 813.  GAO Report on Requirements to Cooperate With Law Enforcement Officials. 

 

This section would require that the Government Accountability Office issue a report to Congress on the adjudication of U-visa petitions in order to assess the effectiveness of the reforms made by the bill in ensuring that potential U-visa recipients aid in the investigation of crimes and apprehension and prosecution of criminals and the effect such reforms have on the number of persons seeking and receiving U-visas. 

 

Section 814.  Consideration of other Evidence

 

The Immigration and Nationality Act provides a ground of deportation for any alien who has been convicted of a crime of domestic violence.   A crime of domestic means any crime of violence as defined in section 16 of title 8 of the U.S. Code committed against certain family members. 

 

This section would provide that in determining whether the domestic abuse an alien has been convicted of meets the definition of crime of violence in circumstances where the conviction records do not conclusively answer the question, the Department of Justice may consider any other evidence that it determines to be reliable in making the determination, including sentencing reports and police reports.

 

TITLE IX – SAFETY FOR INDIAN WOMEN

 

Section 901. Grants to Indian Tribal Governments.  

 

This section would improve an existing grant program targeted at curbing domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking on Indian land, by extending its coverage to sex trafficking crimes.  It would also add two purpose areas to the program.  The first would allow grant money to go toward developing and promoting best practices for responding to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking, and stalking on Indian land.  The second would allow grant money to go toward providing services to address the needs of youth on Indian land who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking, or stalking and the needs of children exposed to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

 

Section 902. Grants to Indian Tribal Coalitions. 

 

This section would improve the existing tribal coalition grant program, by incorporating a purpose area that would allow grant money to go toward developing and promoting policies that promote best practices for responding to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking, and stalking.

 

Section 903. Consultation.

 

Current law requires the Attorney General to consult annually with Indian tribal governments on the federal administration of programs funded by VAWA.  This section would require the Attorney General to report to Congress on the annual consultations, and on the administration’s recommendations for administering tribal funds and programs, enhancing the safety of Indian women, and strengthening the federal response to such violent crimes.

 

Section 904.  Analysis and Research on Violence Against Indian Women.  

 

This section would expand a study of violence committed against Indian women to include women in Alaska Native Villages and sex trafficking crimes.  The bill would authorize funding for the study at $1 million. This section would also maintain the $1 million annual authorization for tribal sex offender registries.

 

Section 905.  Assistant United States Attorney Domestic Violence Tribal Liaisons.  

 

This section would authorize the Attorney General to expand the duties of existing Assistant U.S. Attorney Tribal Liaisons to afford greater focus to domestic violence on Indian land. 

 

TITLE X – CRIMINAL PROVISIONS

 

Section 1001. Criminal Provisions Relating to Sexual Abuse. 

 

This section would prohibit a person who has supervisory or custodial authority over a person who is under arrest, on pretrial release, on probation, or otherwise under supervision pending further judicial proceedings from engaging in sexual activity with the person who is under his or her supervisory or custodial authority.  Current law only prohibits such sexual activity with a person in official detention, yet the same imbalance of power and potential for abuse of authority exists in the supervised release context.  This section would prohibit such conduct if it occurs in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States or if the person engaging in the sexual activity was exercising federal supervisory or custodial authority.  This section would also make the penalties for criminal civil rights violations involving sexual abuse consistent with the penalties for sexual abuse in other federal statutes.  Currently, civil rights violations involving sexual abuse are punished only as misdemeanors, even though the same sexual misconduct would garner serious felony penalties under other federal statutes if it occurred on federal land or was within other federal jurisdiction.

 

Section 1002. Sexual Abuse in Custodial Settings.

 

The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) required the Attorney General to adopt national standards for the detection, prevention, reduction, and punishment of rape and sexual assault in federal facilities.  When PREA was introduced, all immigration detention facilities were under the authority of the Department of Justice.  When the Homeland Security Act of 2002 was enacted, adult immigration authority was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the authority for detaining unaccompanied minors was transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  This section would fulfill the congressional intent of PREA by extending its requirements for national standards to DHS and HHS.

 

Section 1003. Criminal Provision Relating to Stalking, including Cyberstalking. 

 

This section would update the federal anti-stalking statute to capture more modern forms of communication that perpetrators use to stalk their victims.

 

Section 1004. Amendments to the Federal Assault Statute. 

 

This section would amend the Federal Criminal Code to provide a ten-year offense for assaulting a spouse, intimate partner, or dating partner by strangling or suffocating; a five-year offense for assaulting a spouse, intimate partner, or dating partner resulting in substantial bodily injury; and a one-year offense for assaulting a person by striking, beating or wounding.  These changes would enable federal prosecutors to more effectively combat three types of assault frequently committed against women in Indian land and to appropriately address the gradual escalation of seriousness often associated with domestic violence offenses.

 

Section 1005.  Mandatory Minimum Sentence. 

 

This section would amend current law regarding aggravated sexual abuse offenses to amend the penalty from “any term of years or life” to no less than 10 years for offenses committed by force or threat of force and no less than five years for offenses committed by other means.

 

Background

Enacted in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides federal funding for programs and organizations that help assist women who are victims of domestic abuse, stalking and sexual assault.  The Act establishes a number of grant programs within the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for state, local, and tribal governments and victim service providers.   DOJ’s Office on Violence Against Women, which was established in 1995, administers the DOJ grants authorized by VAWA.

Cost

According to the Congressional Budget Office, H.R. 4970 would authorize the appropriation of close to $660 million annually over the 2013-2017 period for programs in the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to combat violence against women.  

 

Assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts, CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 4970 would cost about $2.2 billion over the 2013-2017 period.  Enacting the legislation would affect direct spending and revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures apply.  CBO estimates that enacting the bill would reduce direct spending by $429 million (including $33 million that would be classified as off-budget savings) and increase revenues by $7 million over the 2013-2022 period.

Amendments

The Manager’s Amendment to H.R. 4970 would authorize victims of domestic violence or Indian tribes on behalf of victims to seek protection orders from U.S. District Courts against Indian or non-Indian abusers.

 

The amendment would also add a provision to the Accountability section of the bill to require the Attorney General and Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide appropriate training and technical assistance to grant recipients on how to comply with financial record-keeping and accounting practices.

 

The amendment would maintain language from the 2005 reauthorization that was inadvertently omitted to authorize VAWA funds to be used for culturally specific programs.  (Culturally specific programs, such as African American or Latino programs, address the specific needs of different communities.)

 

The amendment would modify the nondiscrimination clause in the underlying bill to ensure that faith-based groups are not required to forfeit their ability to make employment decisions on a religious basis when they receive funds from these programs.

 

The amendment would provide that self-petitions by battered aliens will still be adjudicated by the Vermont Service Center while USCIS local offices will conduct in-person interviews of self-petitioning aliens.  In order to address concerns that self-petitioning aliens would be put at risk should their alleged batterers also be interviewed, the amendment would not authorize USCIS to interview the alleged batterers.

 

The amendment would lower the evidentiary standards that self-petitioners must meet and would adhere to standard penalties for fraudulent petitions.

 

The amendment would allow illegal immigrant U-visa recipients to receive permanent residence if the perpetrators of the crimes against them are aliens, are convicted of the crimes and are deported to the U-visa holders’ home countries.