President Joe Biden signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022, on March 15. The omnibus package is the final spending bill for the fiscal year. In funding all federal agencies, it also reauthorizes the Violence Against Woman Act (VAWA), which enables noncitizen spouses of U.S. citizens to file for permanent residency (and get their green card). It offers other protections as well.
This is good news for 23 million immigrant women and girls currently residing in the United States. These women’s immigration status, unfortunately, makes them especially vulnerable to:
- Sexual violence
- Human trafficking
- Exploitation in the workforce
Protection at home
Among the many protections, this act offers a battered spouse waiver without the assistance of their spouse (the process is called “self-petitioning”) if they are involved in an abusive relationship or victims of domestic violence. They may file for a U visa (for abuse) or T visa (for trafficking), and there is no cap put on the number of these issued. It should be noted that the concept has grown over the years to also protect victims of elder abuse, perhaps by citizen children.
Protection at work
VAWA also protects workers. Many female immigrants work in domestic care, food service, hospitality, agriculture, and janitorial fields. These jobs often find them working for tips in isolated environments, which can make them vulnerable to employers, who may threaten to revoke visas or report them to Immigration and Customs Enforcement if the female workers report assault or harassment.
Support to victims and survivors
The VAWA provides a long list of critical services to underserved populations such as those who are immigrants, LGBTQ, indigenous people, individuals with disabilities, older adults, and others who endure trauma. In all cases, it enables noncitizens in the United States to apply for lawful permanent resident status. Those with questions or need help can contact an attorney who helps immigrants get visas.