Jeff Sessions Just Made It Harder For Domestic Violence Victims To Seek Asylum

If you thought the dark days were over—think again. The Trump administration is stilling going above and beyond to make things harder for marginalized groups—women and immigrants especially. In fact, a recent move by Attorney General, Jeff Sessions could reverse decades of women’s rights progress. On Monday, he decided that victims of domestic violence and gang violence will no longer qualify for asylum under federal law, overturning a precedent that was set by the Board of Immigration Appeals in 2014, that allowed domestic violence victims eligibility to apply for asylum.

What’s especially disturbing about this new ruling, is the fact that a lot of women that were originally protected and able to seek asylum were undocumented women fleeing domestic violence situations—with little to no other options. Sessions just took away this human right from them.

Sessions’ reasoning for this new ruling, of course, makes no season. It states that an “applicant seeking to establish persecution on account of membership in a “particular social group” must demonstrate (1) membership in a group which is composed of members who share a common immutable characteristic, is defined with particularity, and is socially distinct within the society in question; and (2) that membership in the group is a central reason for her persecution. When the alleged persecutor is someone unaffiliated with the government, the applicant must also show that her home government is unwilling or unable to protect her.” In other words, she has to show substantial proof that her country isn’t trying to protect her from violence and that’s not necessarily evidence that’s easy to provide.

The case that’s been referenced is that of Aminta Cifuentes’, a Guatemalan woman who fled to the United States in 2005 after years of consistent physical abuse from her husband that included everything from severe beatings, to burns, and rapes. In her native country Guatemala, nothing was done. She called the police numerous times and they refused to arrest her husband. After he threatened to kill her if she called authorities again, Cifuentes fled to the states where the Board of Immigration Appeals granted her asylum as a member of a particular group. That particular group was “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship.” This turns out to be something incredibly common in Guatemala, due to the country’s culture of supporting “machismo,” spousal rape and family violence. But Sessions doesn’t believe applicants like Cifuentes should qualify for asylum. In fact, his reasoning behind it, is straight up brutal.

The prototypical refugee flees her home country because the government has persecuted her—either directly through its own actions or indirectly by being unwilling or unable to prevent the misconduct of non-government actors—based upon a statutorily protected ground,” the document states. “Where the persecutor is not part of the government, the immigration judge must consider both the reason for the harm inflicted on the asylum applicant and the government’s role in sponsoring or enabling such actions. An alien may suffer threats and violence in a foreign country for any number of reasons relating to her social, economic, family, or other personal circumstances. Yet the asylum statue does not provide redress for all misfortunes.”

This was yet another move that not only proves the Trump’s administration’s lack of concern and cruelness towards refugees and immigrants fleeing their countries and trying to escape violence and dangerous situations, but also their distaste towards women. This was essentially a women’s right they did away with it. By changing this U.S. immigration law for reasons that really only make sense to Sessions and the Trump administration, now thousands and thousands of women who come to the states seeking asylum from domestic violence and rape won’t be able to access safety. All because he doesn’t think “private” crimes should be eligible under U.S. law—ugh!

According to New York Magazine, this could mean that women who are currently in U.S. asylums could be deported back to their native countries and placed back in their previous dangerous scenarios, which could seriously put them at risk. 

The Trump administration has really gone out of their way to make things harder for undocumented immigrants.  In the last few weeks they’ve separated families at the border who have fled to the U.S. to seek asylum. The children who the administration calls “unaccompanied minors” have been separated by their parents who have been labeled “criminals” and sent to jail.

If we say in the year 2018 that a woman has been beaten almost to death in a country that accepts that as almost the norm, and that we as a civilized society can deny her protection and send her to her death?” Karen Musalo, director for the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law told the Washington Post. “I don’t see this as just an immigration issue … I see this as a women’s rights issue.”

This is a women’s rights issue indeed. I couldn’t agree more.

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