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Jeff Sessions Was Right To Vote Against Domestic Violence Legislation

Jeff Sessions speaks on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio (Getty Images)

As a battered woman, I did the unthinkable: I begged Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to vote against key domestic violence legislation.

In the lead-up to Senator Sessions’s confirmation hearing this week, I’ve been watching the senator being ruthlessly attacked over his 2013 refusal to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Apparently, none of these attackers know (or care) that VAWA’s become one of the biggest loopholes used to bypass our immigration laws. I’ve seen the fraud first-hand.

Because of VAWA, terrorists, criminals and illegal aliens alike are able to obtain fast-tracked green cards with little to no scrutiny. The only thing they need, female or male, is an unsubstantiated and uninvestigated allegation of abuse. Unsurprisingly then, the incentives for VAWA-fraud are vast — and due to the lack of safeguards in the act (which the senator had tried to put in place) — it’s likely everywhere. For this reason, and my own personal experience, I urged him and other congressional members to vote against its 2013 reauthorization.

Soon after our wedding, my now ex-husband, a foreign national at the time from the Netherlands, started abusing me. The change in his behavior when he became eligible for a marriage-based green card was night and day. Our two-year-long relationship leading up to our wedding had also been a ruse, and I’d been made victim of a one-sided sham marriage.

The abuse quickly escalated. He began threatening my life, and I was forced to flee my own home. Unbeknownst to either of us at the time, I hadn’t completed all the necessary paperwork for his green card. Through friends, however, I found he had applied for (and later obtained) legal permanent status regardless. Deeper inquiries I later made with immigration attorneys revealed how. Under VAWA, “refusing” to sign marriage-based immigration forms can subject a spouse to “extreme cruelty” allowing the “victim” (a legal or illegal alien) to self-petition for a green card. Because of VAWA, therefore, I had become an abuser—and a wife-beater earned himself a path to citizenship.

Granted, I can’t officially prove my ex-husband used VAWA (although attorneys and retired immigration officials tell me it looks certain). Why that’s so is almost as infuriating as the abuse and lies I’ve endured. DHS blocks all opportunities for an accused citizen-abuser to submit evidence that refutes a foreigner’s claims. DHS-insiders have confirmed this practice to me. Allowing evidence to be proffered from the alleged citizen-abuser, so the policy goes, could invite retaliation against the alien victim. Once an illegal alien makes a claim of spousal abuse and petitions for a green card the ‘system shuts down’ and government attorneys are immediately blocked from requesting further evidence on the matter, i.e., police reports, etc. This systemic one-sidedness obviously doesn’t exist in the normal courtroom context. But with VAWA, claims aren’t investigated and foreigners (both female and male) are feloniously claiming battered status and fraudulently obtaining green cards.

As for the evidence I wished to submit to block his application, on top of the fact that he was a serial abuser, I also found through a private investigator that he should’ve been denied a green card as a drug-trafficker and for lying on immigration forms. DHS officials, however, refused to take my sworn statement, physically accept my evidence or review any credible third-party evidence I introduced. The loophole’s apparently widely known in legal and illegal alien communities. Although DHS’s transparency on VAWA is weak, petitions appear to have doubled over the past year alone. Through a series of public records requests, the Immigration Reform Law Institute and I are currently seeking more information on the program’s abuse.

I haven’t only been emotionally taxed by this—I was financially cleaned out. As an “abused” foreigner, my husband was eligible for free government-funded legal help while I was repeatedly turned away from such programs. Further, although appropriations law states that nonprofit law firms receiving federal grants cannot represent illegal aliens, a carve-out was made specifically for VAWA cases. These firms receive almost half-a-billion dollars in taxpayer funds per year, much of it going towards bringing VAWA claims to our immigration agencies.

Unsurprisingly, in the 2013 reauthorization fight I witnessed, it was these sorts of interests and other VAWA-grant recipients, then as now, who shamelessly defamed those in Congress who were honest and moral enough to stand up to the abuse. Armed with taxpayer dollars and shameless PR tactics, they dive-bombed what should’ve been a sensible conversation about a serious policy matter and successfully stripped anti-fraud provisions from the act. The episode was a perfect example of too much money and sanctimony in politics.

I’m not the only victim of this abused system to come forward. Over the past decade, American spouses facing false domestic violence allegations have warned congressional members and agency officials of these dangerous loopholes. To make any domestic violence law effective, it needs to vet out false claims, remove incentives for fraud and provide due process. Senator Sessions had the courage to vote against bad legislation that provided none of these.

Elena Maria Lopez
Elena Maria Lopez is a former political journalist and financial writer.

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