Grassley Substitute Amendment to S. 47 the Violence Against Women Act
Prepared Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley
Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee
Grassley Amendment to S. 47 the Violence Against Women Act
Thursday, February 7, 2013
Mr. President, I ask to call up my amendment and ask for its immediate consideration.
This amendment is the Republican alternative. It does more to protect the rights of victims of domestic violence and sex crimes than does the majority bill. There are many ways in which this is so.
Under the substitute amendment, more money goes to victims and less to bureaucrats. It requires that 10 percent of grantees be audited every year to ensure that taxpayer funds are actually being used to combat domestic violence. This is an important point.
The Justice Department Inspector General conducted a review of 22 VAWA grantees from 1998 to 2010. Of these 22, 21 were found to have some form of violation of grant requirements ranging from unauthorized and unallowable expenditures, to sloppy recordkeeping and failure to report in a timely manner.
In 2010, one grantee was found by the Inspector General to have questionable costs for 93 percent of the nearly $900,000 they received from DOJ. A 2009 audit found that nearly $500,000 of a $680,000 grant was questionable.
The fiscal irregularities continue. An Inspector General audit from last year found that a VAWA grant recipient in the Virgin Islands engaged in almost $850,000 in questionable spending. Also a grant to an Indian tribe in Idaho had about $250,000 in improperly spent funds, including $171,000 in salary for an unapproved position. In Michigan last year, a woman at a VAWA grant recipient used some of those funds to purchase goods and services for her personal use.
We should make sure that VAWA money goes to the victims. That hasn’t been the case under the current situation.
The Republican substitute also prevents grantees from using taxpayer funds to lobby for more taxpayer funds. That will ensure that more money is available for victim services. Money
that goes to grantees and is squandered helps no women or other victims.
In addition, the Republican alternative limits the amount of VAWA funds that can go to administrative fees and salaries to 7.5 percent. S. 47 contains no such limit.
If you want the money to go to victims and not bureaucrats, those overhead expenses should be capped.
The Republican substitute amendment requires that 30 percent of STOP grants and grants for arrest policies and protection orders are targeted on sexual assault. The Leahy-Crapo bill sets aside only 20 percent for sexual assault.
The substitute requires that training materials be approved by an outside accredited organization to ensure that those who address domestic violence help victims based on knowledge and not ideology. That will result in more effective assistance to victims. The Leahy-Crapo bill contains no such requirement.
My substitute protects due process rights that the majority bill threatens. For instance, the majority bill says that college campuses must provide for “prompt and equitable investigation and resolution” of charges of violence or stalking.
This essentially codifies a proposed rule of the Department of Education that would have required imposition of a civil standard or preponderance of the evidence for what is essentially a
criminal charge, one that if proved, rightfully should harm reputation.
But if established on a barely more probable than not standard, reputations can be ruined unfairly. The substitute eliminates this provision, as well as another provision that allowed the victim who could not prove such a charge even under this reduced standard to appeal if she lost, creating a kind of double jeopardy.
The majority bill also would give Indian tribal courts the ability to issue protective orders and full civil jurisdiction over non-Indians based on actions allegedly taken in Indian Country.
Noting that the Due Process Clause requires that courts exercise jurisdiction over only those persons who have “minimum contacts” with the forum, the Congressional Research Service has raised constitutional concerns with this provision.
The substitute contains provisions that would benefit tribal women and would not run afoul of the Constitution. Tribes could seek protective orders in federal court.
And the substitute establishes up to $25 million for federal prosecutors and magistrates to be placed in Indian Country for criminal domestic violence and sexual assault cases, as well as to
hear tribal motions for protective orders.
The grant funds are paid for by reducing the overhead of other Justice Department grant funds. However, there will be no reduction in available grants for law enforcement or victims.
These programs are not currently funded to their authorized levels, so the reductions will not reduce services provided.
Combating violence against women also means tougher penalties for those who commit these terrible crimes.
The substitute creates a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for federal convictions for forcible rape. The majority bill even eliminates the 5-year mandatory minimum sentence for this crime that was in the bill last year and supported by the Judiciary Committee.
Child pornography is an actual record of a crime scene of violence against women. Our alternative establishes a 1-year mandatory minimum sentence for possession of child pornography where the victim depicted is under 12 years of age.
I believe that the mandatory minimum for this crime should be higher and that in light of the systematically lenient sentences that too many federal judges hand out, there should be a mandatory minimum sentence for all child pornography possession convictions.
But the substitute is a start. This is especially true because the majority bill takes no action against child pornography.
Our alternative also imposes a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence for the crime of aggravated sexual assault. This crime involves sexual assault through the use of drugs or by otherwise rendering the victim unconscious.
S.47 does nothing about aggravated sexual assault. The status quo appears to be fine for the other side.
The Republican substitute establishes a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for the crime of interstate domestic violence that results in the death of the victim. It increases from 20 to 25 years the statutory maximum sentence for the crime where it results in life threatening bodily injury to, or the permanent disfigurement of, the victim.
It increases from 10 to 15 years the statutory maximum sentence for this crime when serious bodily injury to the victim results. The Leahy-Crapo bill contains none of these important protections for domestic violence victims.
Also included in my amendment are common sense immigration reforms that put integrity back into the VAWA self-petitioning process and the U visa program.
Last Congress, the Judiciary Committee heard the powerful testimony of Julie Poner. She described her personal experience as a victim of immigration marriage fraud and with the fraudulent use of VAWA self-petitions.
Ms. Poner told us that she married her husband in the Czech Republic, and moved with her husband and kids back to the United States.
Within days of receiving notice of an interview with the immigration service to finalize her husband’s immigration status, he told her he was divorcing her. He instructed her to file for the divorce and continue to sponsor him for his green card. He then became abusive toward their children.
Her husband was a hockey player – 6 feet, 2 inches tall. However, he knew he risked deportation if the truth came out. So, he turned the tables on her and claimed he was the one abused by Ms. Poner. Ms. Poner never was allowed to share her side of the story. The immigration service believed his claims, and allowed him to remain in the United States.
The committee also received written statements from more than 20 individuals who maintained that they were victims of marriage fraud or were falsely accused as part of VAWA self-petitions.
These witnesses told of their first-hand experiences and how foreign nationals prey on U.S. citizens simply to get a green card.
The U.S. citizens thought it was all for love. But after saying “I do,” the foreign national lodged false allegations, sometimes of physical abuse, in order to get out of the marriage, collect alimony, and secure a green card.
Witnesses have said that their side of the story was never been heard, because under the process used by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the citizen’s side of the story is not considered.
The USCIS handles all of these green card applications in one remote service center that relies exclusively on paper; without interviewing either the allegedly abused foreign national or the accused citizen.
To this day, I am disappointed that anti-fraud measures have not been included in VAWA.
We can’t allow a law intended to prevent abuse to be manipulated as a pathway to U.S. citizenship for foreign con artists and criminals.
If we’re truly concerned about helping to protect the victims of domestic violence, then we should include a provision that allows our immigration agents to hear both sides of the story when a foreign national applies for a green card after alleging domestic violence by a United States citizen.
So, my amendment addresses this fraud.
It would require an interview of the applicant and allow the government to gather other evidence and interview other witnesses, including the accused United States citizen or legal permanent resident.
Before adjudicating the self-petition, the government would have to determine whether other investigations or prosecutions are underway for the petitioning alien. If there are other allegations or investigations pending, the immigration adjudication would have to consider all those facts.
The second immigration related section in my amendment would strengthen the requirements for a U visa.
Under the current law, the requirements for receiving a U visa are generous. My amendment implements some common sense requirements to guide law enforcement who help sponsor these individuals.
In addition to confirming that the alien has been helpful, each law enforcement certification will also have to confirm that:
(1) the alien reported the criminal activity to a law enforcement agency within 120 days of its occurrence;
(2) the statute of limitations for prosecuting an offense based on the criminal activity has not lapsed;
(3) the criminal activity is actively under investigation or a prosecution has been commenced; and
(4) the alien has information that will assist in identifying the perpetrator of the criminal activity and/or the perpetrator’s identity is known.
With these changes, U visas will become a true law enforcement tool.
The additional requirements will ensure that the help given is real and significantly advances an actual investigation and prosecution.
Another immigration related section in my amendment includes a Government Accountability Office report to assess the efficiency and reliability of the process for reviewing applications for U visas and self-petitions under VAWA, including whether the process includes adequate safeguards against fraud and abuse.
It will also identify possible improvements in order to reduce fraud and abuse.
The final immigration provision I want to highlight in my substitute would allow the U.S. government to deport repeat drunk drivers.
Section 1005 would add habitual drunk driving to the list of aggravated felonies for which an alien may be deported.
Every day, an innocent life is taken because someone decides to drink and drive. An individual who gets behind the wheel after drinking is not exercising sound judgment.
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, foreign nationals are required to be of “good moral character” before they are able to adjust status or become citizens of the United States.
Unfortunately, habitual drunk driving doesn’t stand in one’s way from gaining these benefits. It is not a deportable offense.
There are numerous stories about individuals who have taken innocent lives because they were driving under the influence of alcohol.
In 2011, an undocumented alien in Cook County, Illinois, killed a man in a drunk driving accident. Unfortunately, he was released by the county, absconded, and remains in the United States.
There was also a Virginia man who killed a Catholic nun in Prince William County in 2010. He was an illegal immigrant and repeat offender, and never should have been allowed to remain in the country.
There are many more cases, and unfortunately, the law will allow drunk driving to continue without repercussions for foreign nationals who are on the path to citizenship. It’s time that these offenses were classified as an aggravated felony.
It’s time to get these criminals off the streets. Residing in the United States is a privilege, not a right. The Congress has every prerogative to dictate which behavior is acceptable, especially for non-citizens who should be of “good moral character.”
Last Congress, the Judiciary Committee adopted an amendment to this bill that would have classified habitual drunk driving offenses as aggravated felonies. But in the bill before us now, the majority has dropped that provision. I cannot understand why we would be so lenient with respect to habitual drunk drivers.
Mr. President, I urge my colleagues to support the amendment.