MEMBERS OF Congress who consider themselves tough on crime have long waved the banner for victims. These apostles of law and order, usually but not always conservative Republicans, have pushed for victims’ rights and restitution, arguing that the justice system needs to show more compassion to families shattered by violent crime. Fair enough. But when the victims are immigrant women or gay people who have suffered domestic violence, that conservative compassion seems to melt away.
The federal Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994 and reauthorized without a hitch roughly every five years since. But this year, reauthorization is stalled in the US House, where Republican opponents are balking at new provisions that extend the law’s protections to gay and transgender victims, undocumented immigrants, and certain Native Americans abused on federal reservations. Opponents could use a reminder of what victims’ rights advocates themselves often say: There are real people behind the crime statistics.