Friday, August 13, 2010

Asylum from domestic violence (by Suzie)

A Mexican woman who endured years of abuse from her common-law husband has been granted asylum by an immigration judge in San Francisco, after a favorable recommendation from the Department of Homeland Security. Her lawyers announced the news Thursday. She has been identified only as LR.

The SF Chronicle quotes one of the women's attorneys saying LR is only "the second asylum case granted on allegations of domestic violence." I presume the first was Rody Alvarado in December. The NYT reports that many asylum cases involving domestic violence have been dismissed over the years. The requirements a woman must meet have now been clarified.
L.R.’s lawyers said the case was not likely to lead to any new surge of refugees in the United States because the hurdles remain high for battered women.
From Concerned Women for America:
Karen Musalo, Rodi’s attorney, explains why the number of women asylum seekers remains low. Women who have legitimate claims for asylum often come from countries where they have few or no rights, which limits their ability to leave their country.

They are also frequently the primary caretakers for their children and extended family, forcing them to choose between leaving their family behind or exposing them to the risks of arduous travel to another country. And, women asylum seekers often have little control over family resources, making it impossible for them to have the means to travel.
From Amnesty International:
... the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act define[s] a refugee as a person "outside of his or her country of nationality who is unable or unwilling to return because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion."
Gender is not included, but victims of gender-based violence may be classed as a "particular social group." As with hate-crime legislation, people may fear that adding gender would overwhelm the system. After all, most of the world's women risk violence because of their gender. Loosening immigration requirements isn't very popular these days. Also, many people think of male violence against women as a private act, rather than one tied to culture and government.