July 21, 2000

Catholic Charities Urges House Committee to Protect Battered Immigrant Women

ALEXANDRIA, Va., July 20 — Testifying before a House subcommittee today, Catholic Charities USA urged Congress to ensure protection for battered immigrant women and their children by adopting H.R. 3083, the Battered Immigrant Women Protection Act of 1999.

Battered immigrant women should not have to choose between a violent marriage or deportation, testified Jacqueline Rishty, senior attorney for Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services in Maryland. "Our local agencies, who see the problems these women face every day, have conveyed to us how important this bill is."

In 1998, Catholic Charities local agencies served more than 350,000 immigrants and refugees. Rishty shared with committee members stories of many abused clients who would benefit from H.R 3083.

"One client of Catholic Charities in Arizona said that her husband routinely reminded her that she had to accept whatever he did because her legal status was dependent on him," recounted Rishty. "Another client, a Russian mail-order bride who received assistance from Catholic Charities in Virginia, said her husband constantly threatened her because she did not have a green card — he could institute deportation proceedings against her. Another client in Florida said her husband threatened deportation if she did not do as he said."

Rishty urged members of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims to help these women by adopting H.R. 3083, "correcting grievous injustices in the immigration system that bar some battered women from the relief granted to them in the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

"Enactment of legislation to protect battered immigrant women is a top priority this year for Catholic Charities USA," said Rev. Fred Kammer, SJ, president of Catholic Charities USA. "We are very pleased to have one of our local experts share her insights." Key Provisions of the Battered Immigrant Women Protection Act of 1999 (H.R. 3083) — Adjustment of Status. H.R. 3083 would allow battered immigrant women who obtain an approved self-petition to also obtain a green card without leaving the United States.

- Self-Petitions. H.R. 3083 would allow battered immigrant women to self-petition for legal status even if their abusers divorce them, die, or are deported.

- Cancellation of Removal. H.R. 3083 would consider a battered immigrant's total physical time in the United States when evaluating her access to cancellation of removal proceedings. In addition, H.R. 3083 would eliminate the cap on the number of green cards available under cancellation of removal proceedings for battered immigrants.

- Waivers of Inadmissibility and Bars on Re-entry. H.R. 3083 would provide battered immigrant women meaningful access to waivers of inadmissibility and bars on reentry.

- Access to Legal Services. H.R. 3083 would allow battered immigrant women to obtain legal assistance in VAWA immigration cases from organizations funded by VAWA grants or through the National Legal Services Corporation.

H.R. 3083 was introduced by Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Rep. Connie A. Morella (R-Md.), and Janice D. Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

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