Setting the record straight on the Violence Against Women Act

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My colleagues have included these divisive provisions without any evidence to back up their claims. They have alleged fraud and government waste, but we have had no congressional hearings on the matter, we have received no written testimony to support these claims, and we have seen no studies or reports that suggest any such problem. On the contrary, police chiefs, captains, detectives, and front line officers have stated that the bill’s elimination of longstanding protections for immigrant victims of domestic violence will undermine their work to successfully apprehend criminals. Religious organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Association of Evangelicals have noted that the Republican bill will make non-citizen women less safe and could result in thousands of women remaining enslaved. Further yet, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which serves more than 1.3 million domestic violence victims in more than 2,000 shelter programs nationwide, has said unequivocally that these changes to existing law will endanger women’s lives.

The truth is that this could have been a bipartisan bill, just as it has been in two prior reauthorizations. For nearly a year, we conferred with our Republican and Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate. This bipartisan group worked with survivors, advocates, and law enforcement officers from across the country and identified what programs were working and what could be improved. However, the Republican House Leadership decided to introduce a measure that ignored nearly all of these negotiations and turned their back on hundreds of organizations. Despite efforts to assuage concerns with last minute changes to the bill, the Majority could not conceal the real harm that their legislation will cause. That is why 23 Republicans broke ranks to vote against the bill and over 300 organizations stood firm in their opposition.

I have spent my time in Congress dedicated to the Reverend Martin Luther King’s teachings that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. This commitment to justice for all persons has been at the center of my leadership on the Violence Against Women Act. It is going to take more than my colleagues shouting politics in a crowded house chamber to shake me from this commitment.

Rep. Conyers (D-Mich.) is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.