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US: Protect Right to Asylum for Domestic Violence

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

US: Protect Right to Asylum for Domestic Violence

"(Washington, DC) – The United States government should uphold refugee protections for survivors of domestic violence, the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS) and Human Rights Watch said today.

In December 2018, a federal judge delivered a sharp rebuke to the Trump administration’s most significant attempt to undermine asylum protections for domestic violence survivors. A June decision by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a case involving a woman whose initials were A.B. attempted to place a sweeping ban on domestic violence claims. Following a lawsuit filed by CGRS and the American Civil Liberties Union over the summer, US District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the administration could not impose such a ban and that people who make domestic violence claims must have a fair opportunity to apply for asylum.

But despite Sullivan’s favorable ruling, Ms. A.B.’s case remains in limbo. Until Sessions’s decision is overturned, she and thousands of women like her will continue to face an uphill battle in the courts.

Today CGRS and HRW released a video in which Ms. A.B. shares her story of abuse in El Salvador, the impossibility of finding protection in her home country, and her quest to find safety in the US.

“Ms. A.B. suffered brutal physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, and every time she sought protection from the Salvadoran authorities, the police would not protect her,” said Karen Musalo, one of the woman’s attorneys and director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies. “In denying her asylum, the former attorney general not only overturned clearly established case law recognizing the right to asylum for survivors of domestic violence, but also repudiated the well-accepted principle that women’s rights are human rights.”

The incoming attorney general should rescind Sessions’s decision, the groups said. If not, Congress should enact legislation that protects the right to asylum for domestic violence survivors and others whose claims have been undermined by the ruling in Ms. A.B.’s case..."

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