February 1, 2012 LETTER — LIRS Welcomes the Violence Against Women’s Reauthorization Act of 2011

Press Contact: Fabio Lomelino, Assistant Director for Media Relations
410-230-2721, lirspress@lirs.org

February 1, 2012

The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy
United States Senate
433 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Leahy:

On behalf of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), the national organization established by Lutheran churches in the United States to serve uprooted people, thank you for introducing the bipartisan Violence Against Women’s Reauthorization Act (VAWA) of 2011 (S. 1925). As you know, every year migrants are victims of serious crimes but fear coming forward to report them to law enforcement authorities. The VAWA of 2011 will help lessen their fear by providing legal protections to witnesses. The bill also addresses gaps in current laws and policies to aid law enforcement in prosecuting serious crimes, making individuals and communities safer, and to prevent and reduce rape and sexual assault in federal detention.

In 2000 Congress created the U visa program to help law enforcement fight crime by protecting migrant victims who assist law enforcement to prosecute serious crimes. In fiscal years 2010 and 2011 law enforcement found the program so helpful that the U visa cap was reached months before the end of the year. The VAWA of 2011 would enable law enforcement to use this tool by increasing the number of U visas available annually from 10,000 to 15,000. The bill would also give the federal government the ability to provide U visa protection to victims who have demonstrated their cooperation with law enforcement in bringing criminals to justice and those whose application is supported by senior law enforcement officials. These provisions would ensure the immediate protection of victims of serious crimes and help law enforcement officers to secure the assistance of victims of crime while seeking prosecutions, thereby keeping communities safer.

LIRS staff and our national networks work with adult and child migrants detained by the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Health and Human Services (HHS). Some of these migrants are victims of violence while in federal custody. We therefore support the provision that requires DHS and HHS to adopt national standards to detect, prevent, reduce, and punish rape and sexual assault in their detention facilities.

LIRS applauds your leadership in advancing this extremely important bill and we look forward to working with you to build support for the provisions that protect migrant victims. Please contact Eric B. Sigmon, LIRS Director for Advocacy, at (202) 626-7943 or via email at esigmon@lirs.org with any questions.


Yours in faith,

Linda Hartke
President and CEO
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service