The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a law originally passed in 1994, under President Clinton, and has been reauthorized multiple times up until 2013. It is one of the most commonly used methods by immigrants who have been abused to obtain status in the United States. However, in recent weeks, the incoming federal administration has indicated that it might make significant cuts to VAWA’s grant funding, which may cause significant issues for immigrants who rely on it.
Current Application Procedures
As of this writing, VAWA offers a way for immigrants, who have been abused by a qualifying family member, to obtain valid immigration status independent of that family member. Most petitioners are women. However, despite the title of the Act, anyone may apply if he or she meets the criteria, regardless of gender.
The Act itself is permanent—its provisions do not require congressional re-authorization. Still, VAWA’s funding does require re-authorization every few years. Therefore, sometimes the programs and grants offered under the program will vary or have limited ability to affect its recipients.
In order to apply for immigration relief under VAWA, you must meet the following criteria:
While, as of this writing, there appear to be no plans to change the Act as written, the new administration has hinted that many VAWA grants might be on the proverbial chopping block. A proposed budget for the upcoming decade shows a cut of $10.5 billion, and insiders fear VAWA grants may be part of that number. This is especially so given the administration's ties to the Heritage Foundation—a think tank which promotes lower spending in government. Moreover, the Foundation has decried federal VAWA grants as “a misuse of federal resources.”
If VAWA grants are cut, the immediate problems can appear in community programs, which may then trickle down to individual visa recipients. This does not mean that immigration relief will cease to be issued, but it does mean that assistance to victims will be cut or eliminated altogether. This can cause problems, because if, for example, an abuse victim who is granted relief under VAWA, but he or she has no ability to move out or make the life changes needed to escape his or her life situation, it can cause real harm to those affected. We can only wait and watch for the ultimate decision of the administration.
Ask an Immigration Attorney
With the uptick in executive action at the start of a new administration, much is up in the air. Therefore, ensuring that you understand your rights is essential. The passionate Chicago immigration attorneys at Mevorah & Giglio Law Offices can help you understand what can and cannot be done under VAWA and how it may affect you personally. Contact our office today to set up a free consultation.
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