Undocumented immigrants protected under the Violence Against Women Act

It’s been a fight for quite some time, but on Thursday, President Obama signed an expansion to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which now provides protection to those who are in the country illegally.

For years, undocumented women who were suffering from domestic abuse would not report it, for fear of deportation.

“The men threaten the women, ‘I’m gonna call immigration‘, so they’re afraid to report,” Yolanda Venegas, with the Crisis Center in Odessa, said.

Venegas told NewsWest 9 the bill gave undocumented women a new voice.

“It’s important that they know there is help for them, they do not have to stay in an abusive relationship,” she said.

Now it’s easier to prosecute crimes against women in federal court. Many illegal immigrants who help out authorities will be protected from prosecution and deportation, but they have to first report the abuse to the police.

“You have to have a paper trail. They have to know there have been reports made against this abuser,” she said.

The act will also put more focus on help for the victim, with resources like protective orders, hotlines and shelters.

“If she is undocumented and she is married to a resident or U.S. citizen, and is a domestic violence victim, she qualifies for these services,” Venegas said.

Venegas hopes this change will now encourage more women to come forward.

“I just encourage women to report, there’s a lot of help out there for them. That’s what we’re here for, to help them in whatever we can,” she said.

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