A change in policy spearheaded by the Obama administration toward victims of domestic violence seeking asylum in the U.S. has anti-domestic violence and immigrant advocates cautiously celebrating. It’s one of a series of actions by the administration that suggest a new approach to immigration laws and has advocates anxious to see what follows
The latest sign surfaced last week when the Board of Immigration Appeals ordered an immigration judge to further review the case of a battered Mexican woman who filed a petition for asylum in California, arguing that she moved to the U.S. to escape severe violence by her common-law husband in Guanajuato, Mexico. The New York Times’ Julia Preston described the case in detail here.
Lawyers and women’s rights advocates have argued that physical and sexual abuse victims should be counted as one of the groups protected by American asylum law, which holds that people seeking the status of refugee must demonstrate a fear of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or “membership in a particular social group.”
“The truth is that this social group is consistent with the intent and legal principles of asylum law and the protection of persecuted individuals, and we should welcome the administration’s position,” Bitta Mostofi, a staff attorney for Safe Horizon’s Immigration Law Project wrote in an e-mail. Safe Horizon is the largest provider of support services for victims of domestic violence in the country. (more…)