Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s amendment to the comprehensive immigration reform bill to help protect victims of domestic violence today passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a unanimous vote. 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.

“No one should be forced to remain in an abusive relationship due to fear of losing their legal status,” Klobuchar said.“This is an important step forward for this amendment that will help protect victims and encourage them to come forward and receive the assistance they need.”

“Immigrant women and children entrapped in domestic violence have a human right to safety,”said Rebekah Moses, Program Manager of the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women. Abused immigrants in later life have this same basic right. The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women applauds Senator Klobuchar for championing amendments that protect abused immigrant victims and survivors’ basic human right to safety. We look forward to witnessing these life-saving policies become the law of the land.”

“We applaud Senator Klobuchar for championing these amendments to bring down barriers and create the structures necessary for vulnerable immigrant victims to be able to step forward without fear and have the right and opportunity to seek safety and well-being for themselves and their children,”said Rosie Hidalgo, Director of Public Policy at Casa de Esperanza.

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 circumstancesand victims may fear retaliatory violence from their abusers if they go to law enforcement. Only spouses of U.S. citizens or permanent residents can self-petition for legal status. Klobuchar’s 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 has long been a supporter of victims of domestic violence. 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.