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Home Archive Volume 64 Volume 64, Issue 2 Battered by Law: The Political Subordination of Immigrant Women
Battered by Law: The Political Subordination of Immigrant Women

By Mariela Olivares | 64 Am. U. L. Rev. 231 (2014)

The Article explores the state of immigrant battered women in the United States, focusing on how their identity as a politically and culturally marginalized community impacts the measure of help that they receive. Specifically, the Article examines the 2012–2013 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization debate as an example of how membership in a marginalized community affects legislative successes and failures.

Part I briefly outlines the unique obstacles faced by the battered immigrant woman in securing help and leaving violence in the home—for example, cultural and linguistic barriers, poverty, access to justice issues, and fear of authority and of immigration repercussions. Importantly, the status of immigrant outsider in this country contributes to and exacerbates the marginalization that the battered woman already faces as a victim of domestic violence. Part II discusses the legislative successes aimed at helping the community of immigrant domestic violence victims, focusing on VAWA. Since its legislative introduction in 1994, VAWA has included provisions aimed at helping battered immigrants. Yet, the methods in which the law has provided assistance to battered immigrants has weathered varying degrees of political controversy. Part III focuses on how this controversy ultimately drives legislative advocacy, successes, and failures. This discussion elaborates on how the community of battered immigrants is affected by the current era of anti-immigrant rhetoric and immigration law and policy reform. To illustrate, this Part discusses the 2012–2013 VAWA reauthorization battle in Congress and how vehement opposition to the provisions aimed at helping immigrant women amplifies the continuing challenges that battered immigrants face. Importantly, the Article examines how the status of the immigrant outsider intended beneficiary (e.g., the immigrant victims encompassed in VAWA) affects the ways in which legislation is drafted, lobbied, and ultimately passed or rejected. Part III then ties together the immigrant outsider and battered woman identities with subordination and citizenship theories and stresses and examines how as the most vulnerable and marginalized population, battered immigrant women experience heightened and explicit subordination by the political process and, ultimately, institutionalized law and policy.

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