Maria’s boss pressured her repeatedly to have sex with him. She always said no, but his persistence was frightening. Maria told her boss’s supervisor, but he did nothing to help. In fact, things got worse, as the harassment turned into stalking. Maria ran away, but never told the police because she was afraid they would ask about her immigration status. The boss is still working at the same company, still supervising other young women.
Olivia was sexually molested by a group of her co-workers. Because she did not have legal immigration status, she never called the police. Her attackers are still on the job.
Alisa, a 7-year-old girl, was terrified as she witnessed her abusive father try to kill her mother—three times. Each time, afraid she would be deported and separated from her child (a fear fueled by the father’s own threats), Alisa’s mother refused to report the attempted murders to the police and warned her daughter to stay silent.
Tahirih has been working hard this session of the Virginia General Assembly to pass Senate Bill 441 for women and girls like Maria, Olivia, and Alisa—we need to reassure immigrant victims and witnesses of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other crimes that if they come forward to report those crimes and cooperate with law enforcement they will not be asked about their immigration status. Tahirih helped draft the bill with input from law enforcement and in close collaboration with the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance.
Tahirih feels strongly that SB 441 is a public safety imperative that would make a powerful—even lifesaving—difference for the women and girls we serve. Our law enforcement allies likewise feel SB 441 would provide a tremendous boost to their ability to get violent predators off the street and out of our communities.
We need your help now to get SB 441 passed. SB 441 passed easily out of the VA Senate, but is having some close calls in the House. The bill is moving swiftly to the full House floor for a vote this Tuesday, March 4, 2008. To ensure its passage, we will need every possible vote we can get.
UPDATE: SB 441 fell short of passage by the full House by only six votes, but an incredible and growing coalition is mobilized to advocate for this legislation in the future. Thank you to the many organizations and individuals who stepped up in support of SB 441.
*Names have been changed to protect client privacy.