Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar today introduced an amendment to the comprehensive immigration reform bill to help protect victims of domestic violence. Currently, immigrants who are victims of domestic violence are able to petition for independent legal status under the Violence Against Women Act, but only if they are spouses of U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Klobuchar’s amendment would expand this protection to spouses of those residing in the U.S. under most temporary visa programs as well. Klobuchar also introduced a separate amendment that would classify “elder abuse” as a crime for which a victim could seek a visa from law enforcement to prevent being forced to remain silent about abuse.

“No one should be forced to remain in an abusive home due to fear of losing their legal status,” Klobuchar said.“These amendments will help protect victims and ensure that they can remain in the U.S. when they escape abusive spouses or seek assistance from authorities.”

Under current law, victims of abuse can either seek a U Visa, a visa for victims of certain crimes, from law enforcement officials, or self-petition for legal status under the Violence Against Women Act. However, U Visas can be difficult to obtain in some circumstances, and only spouses of U.S. citizens or permanent residents can self-petition for legal status. Klobuchar’s first amendment allows victims who are in the U.S. with spouses who entered on temporary visas to take advantage of the self-petitioning process and gain independent legal status. Klobuchar’s second amendment adds “elder abuse” as a crime for which an individual can obtain a U Visa.

Klobuchar has long been a supporter of victims of domestic violence and elder abuse. She cosponsored the reauthorization of the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act, and helped lead the effort to pass the bill in Senate. The bill, which was signed into law earlier this year, included a provision similar to bipartisan legislation Klobuchar and former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) introduced called theStalkers Act. Their bill would strengthen and update federal anti-stalking laws to better address the new technology predators are using to harass their victims. In addition, Klobuchar has introduced legislation—the Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act—to crack down on elder abuse by strengthening oversight and accountability for court-appointed guardians.