In yet another heartwarming example of “compassionate conservatism,” several Republican congressmen have proposed a bill that would force authorities to deport undocumented immigrant women who are victims of domestic violence and come to them for help. Police officers and immigrant advocates are speaking out against the law, which would make victims of violent crime far less likely to report it to the police:
According to immigrant advocates, a new immigration enforcement bill being considered in Congress would undermine existing immigration law by removing prosecutorial discretion and deferred action, two components that protect undocumented victims of domestic violence.
Michelle Ortiz — the supervising attorney of Lucha, a unit within the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center — says that Rep. Lamar Smith’s Hinder the Administration Legalization Temptation Act (better known as the HALT Act) would force immigration authorities to deport victims of domestic violence who reach out for help.
Smith, R-Texas, has said the HALT Act is necessary because President Obama is seeking “backdoor amnesty” for millions of undocumented immigrants. The bill is cosponsored by Florida Republicans Vern Buchanan, Richard Nugent and C.W. Bill Young.
Republicans have been crying foul ever since the Obama administration announced last month that it would suspend deportation proceedings against many undocumented immigrants who pose no threat to national security or public safety. But venting their anger by forcibly deporting abused women and separating them from their families seems particularly cruel.
Ortiz explains that the bill would repeal many of the protections offered under the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. When domestic violence victims self-petition the Immigration Service and have their petition approved (which means they have already proven they are victims and married their partner in good faith), ICE gives them deferred action. This is not a legal status, but a protection from deportation, and gives them an avenue to apply for work authorization.
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But Smith’s bill would end deferred action — as well as prosecutorial discretion that allows ICE agents to be lenient on abuse victims — thereby stripping immigration authorities of their power to protect the undocumented women who most need their help.