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Senate to take up reauthorization of domestic violence law

When President Bill Clinton signed the Violence Against Women Act into law in 1994, domestic violence rates were 50 percent higher than they are today. While that result may not have come as a surprise to those who helped structure and draft the landmark piece of legislation, it is nonetheless an impressive and important accomplishment. At the same time, it must also be acknowledged that domestic violence remains a serious and all too common family law issue in Dallas and the state of Texas.

As you may already know, VAWA's authorization expired in 2011, just as it did in 2000 and 2005. On both those previous occasions, the law was reauthorized and faced virtually no opposition. This time that has not been the case.

The objections have come from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who feel that this reauthorization bill, as written, includes some unnecessary and unacceptable changes that would expand the law's power.

The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy and Sen. Mike Crapo, proposes new measures to protect domestic violence victims from being discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender. It also proposes to expand tribal court jurisdiction to cases involving alleged abusers who have strong ties to the tribal communities where those courts sit. A third notable change would allow law enforcement officers to request visas from U.S. immigration authorities for undocumented victims who are assisting them with their investigations.

The full Senate is expected to start considering the new VAWA reauthorization bill this week but even those who have voiced objections to the bill in its present form acknowledge that there is no real chance that the law will go away. Opponents have, however, proposed their own version of the reauthorization bill that does away with all of the proposed changes listed above and adds new measures to target fraud in general, and marriage fraud in particular.

Source: USA Today, "Leahy pushes reauthorization of domestic violence bill," Nicole Gaudiano, March 29, 2012

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