Victims of Severe Domestic Violence and Asylum
Over the years, there has been a battle over whether victims of severe domestic violence abroad have asylum claims here in the USA. The battle began with Matter of R-A-, where a Guatemalan woman who suffered over ten years of violence at the hands of her husband, escaped to the USA and filed asylum. The respondent’s asylum claim lingered for many years in the USA, bouncing between the immigration courts, the BIA and even the Attorney General before being granted in 2009.
Despite this victory in Matter of R-A- and later in Matter of L-R-, the regulations and inconsistent court decisions did not provide the respondents and their attorneys with clear guidance on how to present gender-based and domestic violence-based asylum claims. However, the BIA issued a landmark decision in Matter of A-R-C-G-, finally accepting that women fleeing domestic violence abroad can have a viable asylum claim in the USA. Specifically, the BIA found the particular social group to be “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship.” (To read the full decision, please visit: http://www.justice.gov/eoir/vll/intdec/vol26/3811.pdf)
This decision could not have come at a better time. As discussed in my earlier post, the USA is currently in the midst of a crisis at the southern border. Tens of thousands of unaccompanied minor children and women with young children are attempting to cross the border into the USA. They are being detained across the south west in detention centers (some even called ‘family’ dentition centers…) held in horrific conditions. These women and children are fleeing terrible and unthinkable conditions in Central America, some of which include fleeing domestic violence situations. With Matter of A-R-C-G- on the books and the immigration courts finally accepting that women fleeing domestic violence can qualify as a particular social group in certain situations, these women and children may have a chance to apply for asylum and save their lives and their children’s lives here in the USA.
To view the article published by the LA times entitled “Domestic violence ruling may help thousands of immigrants get asylum” please visit: http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-ff-immig-domestic-20140906-story.html.