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The QueQue

The QueQue: Local races to watch: deal-makers and puppet masters, SA bleeding the "creative class", Violence Against Women Act Rollbacks

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SA2020 holds its next community meeting from 8:30 am to noon this Saturday, May 19, at TriPoint, 3233 N. St. Mary's.

Violence Against Women Act Rollbacks

First passed by Congress in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has been saving lives for nearly two decades. VAWA saw no opposition when reauthorized in 2000 and 2005, but this time around, pushback from GOP lawmakers has muddied the matter.

While the Senate passed its own version late last month (Kay Bailey Hutchison voted for the final bill, John Cornyn against), a version making its way through the House side axes safeguards designed to protect immigrant victims of domestic violence, local advocates warn. The House Judiciary Committee last week churned out a version of VAWA that, among other revisions, clamps down on U visas offered to immigrant victims, in which victims that cooperate with law enforcement can gain employment authorization, stop deportation, and eventually apply for a green card. "We're seeing changes now that could very well send immigrant victims underground, making them more vulnerable, easy targets for violence and abuse within our community," said Pat Castillo with SA's P.E.A.C.E. Initiative this week.

Another revision lets alleged abusers provide input in those cases, "putting victims at significant risk of retaliation," the Texas Council on Family Violence wrote in an email to supporters this week. Currently an immigrant, if married to a U.S. citizen or green-card holder, can show evidence of abuse, they may file for residence confidentially without notifying the abusive spouse. Without those protections, the abuser could quash the application or push to have the victim deported, potentially scaring victims into staying silent, Castillo worried.

"These are incredibly important revisions, especially in San Antonio, especially in our county, especially in our state," said Marta Peláez, president and CEO of Family Violence and Prevention Services, which runs San Antonio's Battered Women and Children's Shelter. Many of the women coming through the shelter are immigrants, some with shaky legal status, she said, some with abusers who hand immigration status over their heads as a form of control. "Here we have a combination that could be lethal," she said, "and when I say lethal, I mean it literally, because someone might stay in a situation that's dangerous, deadly, because of fears over that (immigration)."

The House is set to vote on its version of the bill Wednesday, May 16. •

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