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Town Hall With Rep. Sam Farr

SamFarrNewWhy did the Violence Against Women Act expire, and what is the status of its reauthorization?

One of the first pieces of legislation I supported as a freshman member of Congress in 1994 was the original Violence Against Women Act. I am appalled that during the last session of Congress the Republican House majority allowed the act to expire for the first time in 19 years despite protest from myself and other Democrats.

While rape crisis centers, women’s shelters and other programs created by the 1994 act and subsequent reauthorization acts have continued to receive funding, the future of these crucial establishments is in limbo until we pass a new version of the bill.

Last week, the Democratic Senate majority passed a reauthorization act, just as they did during the last session of Congress, that ensures members of the LGBT community, immigrants and Native Americans have access to help if they experienced domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking—provisions were absent from the Republican’s version in the House during the last session of Congress. Despite the work of Senate Democrats, House Republicans may once again kill the bill by failing to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

I am proud that Democrats are again making women’s rights a priority. I strongly support the new bill because I believe every woman living in the United States of America deserves justice regardless of the community they identify with, their background or heritage. This bill enables all women to seek physical and emotional help, and encourages them to testify against their attackers if they are subjected to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.  

We must remember that immigrants, Native Americans and members of the LGBT community are real people who bruise, bleed and emotionally scar if they are beaten by their significant other or are sexually assaulted or stalked. In the United States of America justice and safety is a basic right, not an advantage one group should hold over another.  

I hope my colleagues in Congress will also realize that all women should have the same resources that we want for our own wives, sisters, daughters and granddaughters.

In light of President Barack Obama’s late-january speech on immigration reform, where does the debate stand in Congress and how likely is it that action will be taken this year?

The President made it clear that immigration reform is a top priority this year and members of Congress are ready work with him. Our immigration system has been broken for far too long, and Democrats and Republicans must finally come together to fix it.

Progress has been made already. Last month, a bipartisan group of Senators laid out a framework for real reform that is similar to the proposals put forth by the President. Both plans call for increased border security and create a level playing field for hiring employees. They require responsibility from everyone—the people who are here illegally and the employers who hired them. By creating a provisional working status for those who are already here, the proposals would bring 11 million people out of the shadows, allowing them to work here legally, pay taxes and contribute to our communities.

The sticking point has become whether those here illegally should be offered a path to citizenship. The two plans differ in details but both call for illegal immigrants to go to back of the line before applying. However, there are still many on the far right who reject that notion and it remains to be seen if that is enough to derail any efforts.

For too long now our immigration system has been left broken. We cannot let hard-line ideologues prevent us from achieving a bipartisan compromise. Now is the time for comprehensive reform so that the American dream promised to immigrants throughout our nation’s history can be achieved by this generation.

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