Factsheet: The Immigrant Witness and Victim Protection Act of 2019 (H.R. 4319)

IWVPA will remove barriers to protection for immigrant survivors of domestic and sexual violence, human trafficking, and other serious crimes. (Download pdf)

Recent changes in immigration policy are undermining the bipartisan protections that Congress established over the past twenty-five years, sharpening the tools of abusers and increasing the risks of harm to victims of violence. H.R. 4319, introduced by Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Jimmy Panetta on September 12, 2019, aims to safeguard and improving existing protections for immigrant survivors in order to help them achieve safety and justice.* H.R. 4319 will enhance victim and community safety efforts in several ways, including:

  • Eliminating the U Visa Annual Cap: H.R. 4319 seeks to eliminate the U visa cap to increase access to protections for survivors of crime, to enhance efforts of law enforcement to investigate and prosecute crimes in their communities, and to increase the efficiency of the adjudication process for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

  • Providing Work Authorization to Survivors While Their Petitions Are Pending: Immigrant survivors face egregious delays in the processing of their VAWA self-petitions, as well as U and T visa applications.* These delays, coupled with other barriers (an inability to have work authorization or a lack of access to financial support), can be devastating and can subject survivors to additional risks. H.R. 4319 instructs USCIS to grant work authorization for U and T visa petitioners and VAWA self-petitioners if their cases are pending for over 180 days. 

  • Preventing Survivors from Being Deported before their Humanitarian Immigration Cases Are Adjudicated: The bipartisan protections created in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) are undermined when survivors are denied access to immigration benefits. H.R. 4319 instructs DHS officials not to remove survivors with pending U visa, T visa, or VAWA-based relief until a final decision has been reached in their cases including any appeal period. 

  • Limiting Detention for Survivors with Pending Applications: H.R. 4319 creates a rebuttable presumption that survivors with pending U visa, TY visa, or VAWA-based relief should be released from detention. DHS can overcome this presumption based on clear and convincing evidence that alternatives to detention will not be viable or that the person is a threat to another person or the community.

For more information, please contact:

* Download a PDF of this AIS Factsheet

* Cosponsored by: Representatives Blumenauer (OR-3), Bonamici (OR-1), Carbajal (CA-24), Clarke (NY-9), Cleaver (MO-5), Correa (CA-46), Eshoo (CA-18), Espaillat (NY-13), Garcia (TX-29), Grijalva (AZ-3), Haaland (NM-1), Johnson (GA-4), Khanna (CA-17), Lofgren (CA-19), Maloney (NY-12), McGovern (MA-2), Meng (NY-6), Moore (WI-4), Murphy (FL-7), Napolitano (CA-32), Norton (DC-At Large), Omar (MN-5), Pressley (MA-7), Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Rush (IL-1), Sánchez (CA-38), Schakowsky (IL-9), Sires (NJ-8), Smith (WA-9), Soto (FL-9), Suozzi (NY-3), Swalwell (CA-15), Vargas (CA-51), Velázquez (NY-7).

* For example, it now takes a minimum of 1.5 years for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to adjudicate a VAWA self-petition for abused spouses or family members of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, or a T visa petition for victims of human trafficking. The delays for U visa petitions for immigrant crime victims who are cooperating with law enforcement have skyrocketed as the initial adjudication process now takes over 4 years. See https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/processTimesDisplayInit.do