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Evolution of VAWA immigrant protections

Congress first passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994. The purpose was to improve the response of communities to domestic violence and sexual assault by coordinating private nonprofit organizations, social services and the criminal justice system.

Despite the name, VAWA helps victims of domestic violence regardless of sex or gender. It focuses on helping underserved communities such as Native American tribes, the LGBT+ community and immigrants. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the protections you have as an immigrant under the Violence Against Women Act have evolved with the reauthorizations that have taken place every few years.


After the passage of VAWA in 1994, the first reauthorization took place in the year 2000. This focused on preventing human trafficking and established U-visas and T-visas to protect immigrants from dating and domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault.


The next reauthorization took place in 2005. To better serve the immigrant community, it developed community services for victims of domestic violence that were linguistically and culturally specific. It also created other provisions to protect immigrant victims of domestic violence in general, particularly women. One provision that benefitted all victims but had significant implications for immigrants was protection from unfair evictions based on being a victim of stalking or domestic violence.


The 2013 reauthorization continued the trend of providing protections to domestic violence victims who are also immigrants. It also helped immigrants in indirect ways. For example, it extended further assistance and care for members of the LGBT+ community. LGBT+ people who are also immigrants may have difficulty finding acceptance and help from family or community members due to intolerance in the culture.