Advocates Must Organize Quickly as Sessions Says “No Entry” to Victims of Domestic and Gang Violence
(Nonprofit Quarterly) After a nine-year waiting period, Aminta Cifuentes was finally granted asylum after escaping Guatemala from her abusive husband in 2014. The Board of Immigration Appeals, in granting asylum, established that asylum can be granted on the basis of domestic violence. This was solidified in 2016 by the Justice Department. However, in a statement released on June 11th, Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that the decision is to be overruled and “should not have been issued as a precedential decision” for asylum. Sessions also added that claims of gang violence will not qualify for asylum under the federal law.
Sessions’ reason for the policy repeal is based on his argument that domestic violence victims are not a part of a “particular social group.” According to precedent and his statement, this means they must have membership in a group that “share[s] a common immutable characteristic” and “membership in the group is a central reason for her persecution.” Federal law requires asylum seekers to show that “race, religion, nationality, membership to a certain social group, or political opinion” was foundational to their persecution. However, in Cifuentes’s case, the Board of Immigration Appeals found her to be a member of the group “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship,” also citing that Guatemala has a culture of “machismo and family violence,” including spousal rape and unenforced domestic violence laws and ordinances.
Sessions denies this characterization of domestic violence, claiming that private actors are the ones inflicting violence and the group membership is not a central reason for the abuse. Sessions wrote that the asylum statute “does not provide redress for all misfortune.” The decision should elicit an immediate outraged response from so many movements and sectors of society.
“No Entry!” Photo: Rabiem22