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We Stand with immigrants: graphic of the statue of liberty on a red background

We Stand with Immigrants

By Katie Ray-Jones, CEO. Originally published at Huffington Post.

immigrationOver the last 24 hours, we’ve all heard reports that officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested an undocumented woman in El Paso, Texas, who had just received a protective order against her abusive partner. According to reports, ICE officers followed the woman into the hallway after her hearing, and appear to have been acting on a tip from her abusive partner as to her whereabouts.

This arrest sets a dangerous precedent and creates a chilling effect for all immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, further marginalizing them as they consider turning to law enforcement or the courts for help. Furthermore, it undermines protections in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that protect the confidentiality of immigrant victims and prevent ICE from engaging in enforcement activities in sensitive locations, such as a courthouse where a victim is seeking an order of protection.

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The Hotline Supports President Obama’s Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence

Firearms and domestic violence have always been a deadly combination. The presence of a gun in domestic violence situations increases the risk of homicide for women by 500%. In a survey The Hotline conducted in 2014, we found that of the participants whose partners had access to guns, 22% said that their partner had used a firearm to threaten them, their children or other family members, and 67% believed their partner was capable of killing them.

Our CEO Katie Ray-Jones and other leaders from domestic violence and sexual assault organizations are standing with President Obama as he takes executive action to address gun violence while still protecting Second Amendment rights. Earlier today, President Obama made remarks at the White House and discussed new measures that will:

Keep guns out of the wrong hands through background checks. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco. Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is making it clear that anyone in the business of selling firearms must get a license and conduct background checks. They will finalize a rule to require background checks for people trying to buy weapons and other items through a trust, corporation or other legal entity. The FBI is also making improvements to the background check system to make it more effective, including processing background checks 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch has highlighted the importance of receiving criminal history records and information on persons disqualified due to mental illness and qualifying crimes of domestic violence.

Make our communities safer from gun violence. The President’s FY 2017 budget will include funding for 200 new ATF agents and investigators to help enforce our gun laws. ATF has established an Internet Investigation Center to track illegal online firearms trafficking and is dedicating funds and additional personnel to enhance the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network. ATF is also finalizing a rule to ensure that dealers who ship firearms notify law enforcement if their guns are lost or stolen in transit. Additionally, the Attorney General issued a memo encouraging every U.S. Attorney’s Office to renew domestic violence outreach efforts.

Increase mental health treatment and reporting to the background check system. The Administration is proposing a new $500 million investment to increase access to mental health care. The Department of Health and Human Services is finalizing a rule to remove unnecessary legal barriers preventing States from reporting relevant information about people prohibited from possessing a gun for specific mental health reasons.

Shape the future of gun safety technology. The President has directed the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to conduct or sponsor research into gun safety technology and to review the availability of smart gun technology on a regular basic while exploring potential ways to further its use and development to more broadly improve gun safety.

We support these measures to increase gun safety and keep firearms out of the wrong hands, including those who have been convicted of domestic violence. While there is still much work to do, we believe that these new measures take tremendous strides toward increasing the safety of our communities.

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Delegations from US and China Share Best Practices for Domestic Violence Services

With special contribution from Lynn Rosenthal, vice president of strategic partnerships, and Norma Amezcua, director of quality assurance at the National Domestic Violence Hotline

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is currently participating in a project between the US and China to share information about best practices for the intervention and prevention of domestic violence.  This project grew out of the US-China People to People Exchange held last year in Beijing.  During that event, the two countries agreed to collaborate to provide training for hotline workers and advocates working to address domestic violence in China.

Last month, a delegation that included representatives from The Hotline, governmental officials from the US Department of Health and Human Services, the State Department, and the White House traveled to China to meet and exchange information with local service providers and organizations. The key partner working on behalf of women in China is the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF), an organization that works to improve the status of women in China.

The ACWF infrastructure provides an opportunity for anti-violence work at the local, provincial and national level.  Services vary around the country, with several provinces developing model efforts that bring together law enforcement, women’s outreach and the courts. The ACWF estimates that nearly 1 in 4 women in China have experienced domestic violence, a very similar rate to the US. However, other estimates of domestic violence in China are even higher than the official data.

During the visit, the Chinese and US delegations discussed intervention and prevention, and agreed that changing social norms is the key to stopping domestic violence. ACWF is working to change the perception that domestic violence is a private family matter, which has also been a persistent belief in the US, especially prior to VAWA. All attendees agreed to continue discussing effective methods to change social norms and to consider ways to evaluate these efforts.

The US delegation also conducted two training sessions, one in Wuxi City (in the southern part of the country) and one in Beijing. Participants included students, law enforcement officials, ACWF officials and outreach workers, social workers, lawyers and psychologists. In both the training sessions and in meetings with ACWF officials, the US delegation learned about best practices and the legal response to domestic violence in China.

Domestic violence is a global issue, and no country is immune. We are grateful for this opportunity to learn and exchange ideas with our counterparts in China. A delegation from ACWF will visit the US later this year, and we look forward to continuing conversations about best practices, policies and solutions for ending domestic violence around the world.

Attendees at the training session in Wuxi City

Attendees at the training session in Wuxi City

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The Hotline Joins Colleagues in Announcing New Victim Policy Priorities

In recognition of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (April 19-25), more than 20 national victim and survivor organizations announced shared policy priorities for the next decade yesterday in Washington, DC.

The six policy priorities were identified late last fall at a convening of leaders in the crime victims and survivors advocacy field. The broad collection of national victim and survivor advocacy organizations that met to develop the priorities included advocates for homicide survivors; human trafficking victims; elder victims; victims of drunk driving; victims of domestic violence and sexual assault; victims of campus violence; victims of color; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender victims of violence; and many more.

The collaborating organizations committed to using their combined energies over the next decade to:

  • Ensure that amounts collected for the Crime Victims Fund are released for their intended purpose, at levels necessary to meet the needs of crime victims and reduce the impact of victimization on individuals and society.
  • Reform crime victim compensation to increase benefits, improve access, reduce barriers, and promote standardization across jurisdictions.
  • Incorporate racial justice concerns in victim and survivor advocacy efforts.
  • Protect the physical safety, emotional well-being, and financial security of all crime victims and witnesses.
  • Pursue justice for all crime victims by continuing to reform our justice systems to increase transparency, ensure that victims’ voices are heard, and provide meaningful accountability.
  • Promote fair and thoughtful roles for institutions in preventing and responding to victimization.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline and our partners invite others at the national, state, tribal and local levels to read the report and sign on at www.victimsofcrime.org.