It's Hard Work Spending All That Money!
Congress spends approx. 1 billion taxpayer dollars each year with the stated intent of eliminating domestic violence, the largest portion of that amount being the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). They are poised to increase funding even further next year when they vote on a 5 year reauthorization of VAWA. One would think that this much money should have greatly reduced domestic violence by now. But VAWA spending has had little or no effect on reducing domestic violence.1
Since the passage of VAWA is a virtual slam-dunk, those who benefit financially from this law are emboldened to demand more and more with each reauthorization. So legislation that's only tangentially related to domestic violence – legislation that could never pass on its own merits – finds it way into VAWA.
One graphic example of the state of things at present is the way VAWA undermines immigration law.
Immigration: VAWA actually encourages foreign nationals to scheme to destroy the livelihoods and reputations of innocent U.S. citizens, just so they can gain permanent residency. Under language enacted in the 2005 VAWA reauthorization, a non-citizen's unproven claim of domestic violence by a U.S. citizen leads to automatic legal status and eventual citizenship. Make up the right kind of story and you don't have to deal with that bothersome two year waiting period, or that annoying interview by immigration officials. There will be no review of the truth of your accusation, and evidence that the accused spouse might want to present in his own defense will be disallowed.2 This Alice-Through-The-Looking-Glass policy leads to the worst kind of marriage fraud – scamming innocent Americans into marriage then accusing them of domestic violence at the first opportunity.
For next year's reauthorization, they've formed eighteen committees to dream up their wish-list. It's not possible to know right now just what their demands will be, but recent bills introduced in Congress offer clues to what sort of non-domestic-violence-related things they may ask for.
Workplace: HR 739 is a bill currently in Congress. The bill would make domestic violence victims a new class with special privileges. Under the bill, a domestic violence victim would be entitled to lifetime employment benefits! This includes the right to employee health insurance, and the right to sue employers over higher and firing decisions. And since this would apply to people who self-refer, removing the need to provide proof, such a law would act as an incentive to make up a story. In these times of massive job losses, such a law would create an epidemic of false accusations, destroying the lives of millions of innocent people.
International: In the last Congress, an international version of VAWA dubbed I-VAWA was introduced in both the House and Senate. Oblivious to the fact that the U.S. version of VAWA has serious flaws that have undermined the basic freedoms and legal protections that once characterized the U.S. as a free society,3 I-VAWA's sponsors proposed to use the power of the purse to impose the same flawed laws on foreign countries. Many members of Congress have expressed concern that our unilateral action in Iraq has increased foreign countries' resentment of the U.S. That resentment will pale in comparison to the resentment that will result if in the next reauthorization of VAWA, Congress assumes the right to impose legislation on other countries by incorporating I-VAWA-like language.
No matter what you believe about labor policy, foreign policy or immigration these things clearly don't belong in a bill whose stated purpose is to prevent domestic violence. Combining these issues with domestic violence encourages people to make false domestic violence claims in exchange for government benefits.
Please contact Senator Jeff Sessions, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, at 202-224-4124. Tell him that VAWA needs to focus on domestic violence and not stray into unrelated issues. Cite some of the examples above and ask him to include some of these items in the Judiciary Committee's hearings on reauthorizing VAWA. As always be polite.
Date of RADAR Release: July 13, 2009
R.A.D.A.R. – Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting – is a non-profit, non-partisan organization of men and women working to improve the effectiveness of our nation's approach to solving domestic violence. http://www.mediaradar.org