Leahy3 Will Permit Work Authorization For Immigrant Domestic Violence Victims

From the Senate Judiciary Committee Majority Staff:

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S.744)
Leahy3 Will Permit Work Authorization for Immigrant Domestic Violence Victims

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has offered an amendment to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act to provide authorization allowing immigrant victims of domestic violence and human trafficking to work while their applications for status are pending.


What the Amendment Does

The Leahy amendment (Leahy3) will require DHS to provide work authorization to victims within 180 days of filing their application.  It does not provide access to federal benefits or truncate the existing national security screening and review process of visa applications.  The amendment simply ensures that victims who have filed complete applications can receive a temporary work authorization enabling them to provide for themselves and their families while their application is pending.

Why It Is Needed

Immigrant survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking and other crimes who are eligible for immigration relief under the VAWA self-petition, the U visa, or the T visa, must often wait up to 16 months or more for their applications to be reviewed by USCIS and work authorization granted.  The lack of access to financial resources caused by these delays place survivors in a very vulnerable position and make leaving a dangerous situation even more difficult.

The ability to work is particularly important for survivors of these crimes.  Abusers often exploit the financial dependence of their victims as a way of controlling them.  Without work authorization, it may be difficult for an immigrant victim to prove to a family court judge that he or she can provide for his or her children if there is a custody dispute, and the individual may encounter significant barriers to accessing transitional housing services or renting an apartment because he or she is unemployed.

More than 160 national, state and local organizations that work with survivors of domestic violence support Leahy3:

“This amendment is needed because survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and other crimes are experiencing significant delays in the processing of their VAWA, U visa and T visa applications.  For example, it now takes a minimum of 1.5 years for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to adjudicate a VAWA self-petition.  Such long waits for the adjudication of their cases, coupled with other debilitating constraints (a lack of access to work authorization or other financial support, and lack of adequate access to public assistance, including public housing) can be devastating to survivors who face dire personal and economic hardship, and may possibly place them in the unconscionable position of having to remain in or return to violent homes.” [May 15, 2013]

Press Contact

Press Contact
David Carle: 202-224-3693