WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association has a long history of supporting legislation and polices that promote equality, civil rights and fair treatment for all, including the rights of women and other vulnerable populations, as evidenced by the recent adoption of a resolution in support of the U.S. Ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women;

WHEREAS, one form of trampling upon basic human rights occurs when women and vulnerable populations are subjected to domestic and interpersonal violence, which is a leading cause of injury among women in the United States;

WHEREAS, the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 ("VAWA") was created by Congress with the purpose of helping curb the epidemic of domestic violence in the United States and was reauthorized with bi-partisan support in 2000 and 2005;

WHEREAS, VAWA is second only to the Legal Services Corporation, in providing funding to support attorneys who represent victims of domestic violence in civil matters and/or criminal matters. Area non-profit legal services have used such funding to provide critical advocacy and legal services and to promote coordination of law enforcement with victim advocacy groups and community groups;

WHEREAS, in Philadelphia and nationwide, certain populations face additional barriers or lack services to combat and prevent domestic violence. These populations include immigrants without stable immigration status, Native Americans, LGBT individuals and those who are victimized on college campuses;

WHEREAS, immigrant victims are fearful of reporting domestic and interpersonal violence or sexual assault due to real or perceived threats of being reported to immigration authorities and subsequently being deported and separated from their children;

WHEREAS, the U Visa program offers law enforcement an important tool to encourage immigrant victims to report domestic partner abuse and to assist in prosecuting their abusers without the fear of being deported;

WHEREAS, two versions of the VAWA reauthorization bill have made their way through Congress in the current session: S. 1925, which was passed with bipartisan support in the Senate, and H.R. 4970, which was narrowly passed in the House of Representatives;

WHEREAS, S. 1925 maintains current protections for immigrant victims of domestic violence through the U visa process and enhances protections for victims in the LGBT community and among Native Americans, provides that victims who are residents of public housing can relocate to a safe unit and provides support to victims on college campuses;

WHEREAS, premised on the unsubstantiated view that there is fraudulent use of the U visa process, when in fact law enforcement must certify each U visa application attesting to its validity, H.R. 4970 rolls back VAWA protections for immigrant victims. Specifically, H.R. 4970:

  • Denies most U visa applicants permanent residency, eliminating a key protection for women and victims to come forward and report abuse and criminal activity;
  • Restricts U visas to areas where an investigation is actively being pursued; under current rules, the victim must show she is likely to be helpful in the prosecution of investigation;
  • Requires a victim to identify the perpetrator when many victims, such as those who are raped, or otherwise physically attacked by non-intimate partners are too traumatized or do not get a good look at the perpetrator;
  • Forces victims of domestic violence who "self-petition" to be subjected to numerous interviews, and gives authority to perpetrators to intervene in a case.
  • Includes none of the enhancements for LGBT, Native American, public housing resident and college student victims.

WHEREAS, the protections maintained for immigrant victims and the enhancements for LGBT, Native American, public housing resident and college student victims contained in S. 1925 continues VAWA's progress in creating and supporting comprehensive and effective responses to domestic violence;

WHEREAS, H.R. 4970 stalls this progress, eliminates existing protections and places lives unnecessarily at risk;

WHEREAS, the House and Senate versions of VAWA re-authorization are now before a joint committee to reconcile the two versions;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association authorizes the Chancellor to call upon Congress to swiftly pass the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act of 2011.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Chancellor and/or his designee are authorized to communicate the position of the Philadelphia Bar Association to our Congressional Delegation, the media and the public and to take such other action in furtherance of this resolution as may be appropriate and necessary.