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Posted by Brian De Vallance
In September, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved the statutory maximum 10,000 petitions for U nonimmigrant status (U visas) for immigrant victims of crime, including domestic violence, for the fourth straight year since it began issuing U visas in 2008. Through this program and others, DHS is committed to combating domestic violence and other forms of violence against women.
Last March, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano created the DHS Council on Combating Violence Against Women to coordinate the department’s efforts to stop these crimes and to ensure the effective administration of laws preventing violence against women. The Council provides a unique forum that brings together experts to identify and build consensus around the best practices to combat violence against women, promote consistency on internal policies, and examine how the Department can improve its ability to combat violence against women in the communities we serve and who are impacted by our work.
The Council hosted its first engagement event this summer to update stakeholders on DHS’ efforts to combat violence against women. In an effort to connect further with our partners, DHS plans to release a comprehensive resource guide in December that provides summaries and links to its programs, initiatives, training and services that can be leveraged by communities across the country as they also work to combat these terrible crimes. For example, in early 2013, we issued roll call training videos that provide law enforcement officials with practical training to identify and screen individuals who may be immigrant victims of domestic violence or other serious crimes. In addition, DHS has published guidance regarding immigrant victims of certain crimes for law enforcement that includes information about visa requirements, the law enforcement certification process, and answers to frequently asked questions from law enforcement agencies.
Continued stakeholder engagement is vital to ensuring the success of our programs. October marks National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Every day the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plays a role in combatting domestic violence and seeks to be a productive partner in working to break the cycle of violence against women. As the Council’s newest co-chair, I look forward to building on these efforts and continuing to advance our work to protect victims of domestic violence.
For more information on the DHS Council on Combating Violence Against Women, contact VAWA@hq.dhs.gov.