Since the beginning of 2018, the current Attorney General has set aside at least four rulings handed down by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which is a subsidiary of the Justice Department dedicated exclusively to appeals from immigration judges’ rulings. Instead of allowing the BIA’s rulings to stand, he has taken these cases from its jurisdiction. Given the rarity of this action in most administrations, immigration professionals are postulating that one of these, Matter of A-B-, may be used as a test case of sorts against the rights of asylum applicants who have experienced domestic violence. If the Attorney General rules against the appellant in Matter of A-B-, it may sentence domestic violence victims to death upon their return to their home country.
Can Domestic Violence Victims Get Asylum?
Both the 1951 Geneva Convention and U.S. immigration law normally define a refugee or asylee as someone who is “unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality, or to seek the protection of that country because of [past] persecution,” or a well-founded fear of persecution. That persecution must be based on one of five unchanging characteristics—race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Under U.S. law, the state must either be the agent of persecution, or it must be shown that the state either cannot or will not stop the persecution.
It is because of this last caveat that the applicant in Matter of R-A- (2009) was able to obtain asylum. The applicant was a Guatemalan woman, the wife of a man who repeatedly physically assaulted her, and given his connections in Guatemalan society, she alleged that she was not able to be safe anywhere in her country. The BIA held that the applicant had demonstrated that the state was unwilling or unable to stop what amounted to persecution based on her membership in a particular social group (domestic violence victims with specific characteristics), and as such, granted the applicant asylum. The law on these issues has been refined since 2009, but the fundamental crux of the issue is that domestic violence victims have been able to get asylum in the U.S. if all the relevant facts have been demonstrated to the satisfaction of the authorities.
Why Change This Ruling?
The Attorney General has the right to vacate decisions of the BIA, and the Justice Department has stated that the ultimate intention behind Matter of A-B- and the other cases removed is merely to clarify the requirements for domestic violence victims to meet before being considered for asylum. However, advocacy groups are troubled because many of the proposed requirements that potential asylees would have to meet would be all but impossible—for example, information about one’s abuser that a victim simply might not possess. The end result would still likely be the deportation of countless vulnerable people, especially women and girls.
Also, it must be said that context surrounding the recent cases’ remand to the Attorney General’s office is problematic, to be sure. The current Attorney General has a history of misogynistic and xenophobic comments, and has shown very little interest in honoring current U.S. immigration law and treaty obligations (for example, a recent proposed policy change separating minor children and parents at the border appears to be his brainchild, with the alleged aim of preventing child smuggling—saying nothing about such tactics being in violation of U.S. law). If the law is changed to deny domestic violence victims their day in immigration court, the ruling may be challenged in federal appeals court and ultimately overturned, but it may nonetheless leave you and yours in a vulnerable position.
Contact an Attorney for Help
If you have been the victim of domestic violence, or you have a loved one in that position, it is important to meet with an attorney as quickly as possible, so as to ensure that you understand your options if the law does change. The dedicated Chicago deportation defense attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC are happy to try and assist you with your case, especially when the law is changing and everything may seem unsure. Call us today to set up a free consultation.
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