Washington, D.C. - Yesterday, House Judiciary Committee Republicans voted against Congresswoman Judy Chu’s (D-CA) amendment to H.R. 5203, the so called Visa Integrity and Security Act of 2016. Representative Chu’s amendment would have required the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish safeguards to protect survivors of domestic abuse in the social media screening process. These safeguards are necessary to prevent abusers from manipulating their victims’ social media accounts or using social media to cause further harm that could deny victims the opportunity to obtain humanitarian immigration relief. The amendment failed on a party line vote of 14 to 8.
“The Visa Integrity and Security Act of 2016 leaves domestic violence, sexual violence, and stalking survivors at risk for having their visas denied and being made more vulnerable to their abusers,” said Congressman Conyers. “Rep. Chu’s amendment to the bill would have ensured they receive the protections they deserve against harassment during the immigration review process. I’m appalled that my Republican colleagues blatantly overlooked the needs of this vulnerable population.”
“This outrageous bill is just the latest example of how House Republicans are trying to turn hate speech into policy,” said Congresswoman Chu. “This legislation would effectively halt all legal immigration and specifically target applicants from Middle Eastern countries. Imagine fleeing violence for safety in the U.S. only to be turned away because you can’t afford a DNA test. Not only does this bill fail to strengthen national security, it further victimizes survivors of domestic abuse. Under this bill, a visa can be denied solely on the basis of social media activity. However, it does nothing to deal with situations where an abuser may impersonate a victim with a new social media profile or hijack a victim’s existing social media profile to make salacious posts. That is why I introduced my amendment to require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish procedural safeguards to protect victims of domestic abuse prior to conducting social media screening in the immigration process. These safeguards are necessary to prevent abusers from manipulating their victim’s social media accounts or deny victims the opportunity to obtain the humanitarian immigration relief that they deserve. This threat is real and if not dealt with properly, deserving immigrants may be denied their visas, and worse, remain vulnerable to their abusers.”
Congresswoman Chu continued, “This was a reasonable measure that would protect those seeking safety in the United States, and I’m disappointed that my Republican colleagues are more interested in keeping any and all immigrants out of our country and not in creating an immigration system that works for us.”
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than one in four stalking victims reported suffering some form of cyberstalking. The majority of these victims identified the online stalker as a former intimate partner. As it stands, the Visa Integrity and Security Act of 2016 does not prevent abusers from impersonating a victim with a new social media profile or hijacking a victim’s existing social media profile. This behavior can negatively impact an individual’s chances during the immigration review process.
The House Judiciary Committee passed the Visa Integrity and Security Act of 2016 on a party line vote of 14 to 10. This Republican legislation would create multiple new onerous requirements that could ultimately impair an already broken U.S. immigration system.
Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for the Markup of H.R. 5203, the ‘‘Visa Integrity and Security Act of 2016”
|Dean of the U.S. House|
John Conyers, Jr.
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