• August 1, 2021

Exclusive: Advocates celebrate DOJ’s reversal of anti-asylum policy that blocked victims of domestic violence

 Exclusive: Advocates celebrate DOJ’s reversal of anti-asylum policy that blocked victims of domestic violence

“This was the right decision by the Attorney General and one which helps victims of extreme violence,” American Immigration Lawyers Association’s (AILA) Jeremy McKinney said. “Today also hits home as it favorably impacts the ability of the asylum seekers I represent to remain safe. By reinforcing what was once settled law—that domestic & gang violence can fall within the ambit of asylum law, the Biden administration is sending a powerful message that America is once again a refuge for those fleeing persecution and in need of humanitarian protection.”

The New York Times reports that the outcome of 40-year-old asylum-seeker Leticia’s case could hinge on Garland’s decision. She fled Guatemala with her young child after suffering domestic abuse and then witnessing a gang-related murder. “They threatened to finish with me,” she said in the report. She’s now in San Francisco, awaiting the outcome of her case. “I feel like God is giving me another chance to live with this decision,” she told the Times.

Maribel, another asylum-seeker, said in a statement from the Welcome With Dignity campaign that she was “thrilled to hear about these critical changes to the law—I know it is going to change my life, and the life of so many women who, like me, are survivors of domestic abuse.” Asylum-seeker Leticia said in the statement that “[i]f I win my case, I will be happy and I will feel free. I feel like God is giving me another chance.”

Welcome With Dignity said in the statement that the previous administration’s policies resulted in “a sharp downturn in asylum approval rates, with many people being ordered deported to grave violence.” AILA said that “[b]y vacating these two decisions, the AG has restored access to asylum for many people fleeing persecution abroad, protections that had been gutted by the Trump administration.”

“This is great news for people fleeing domestic abuse and gang violence, or who are at risk of violence because of their family ties,” said Human Rights First Senior Advocacy Counsel for Refugee Protection Robyn Baynard. “Together, the rulings in Matter of A-B- and Matter of L-E-A- caused serious harm to asylum seekers, in particular women, children, and families. The rulings directly violated U.S. obligations under the Refugee Convention and U.S. asylum laws designed to protect them.” The organization had been among the hundreds that had recently called on Garland to overturn Matter of A-B- and Matter of L-E-A-.

“Today’s action by Attorney General Garland is an important first step toward re-establishing that asylum seekers are entitled to fair, case-by-case evaluation of their claims,” said Peter Isbister, senior lead attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which adjudicates asylum applications and under the previous administration struck “nation of immigrants” from its mission statement, said in a statement received by Daily Kos that it welcomed Garland’s decisions.

“We applaud the Attorney General’s decisions today vacating two prior decisions that limited asylum eligibility for individuals fleeing violence perpetrated by domestic partners or on account of familial relationships in their home countries,” Acting Director Tracy Renaud said. “We have advised our officers to no longer rely on the vacated decisions and are working to swiftly provide specific, comprehensive guidance to our workforce to align our policies with these decisions.

“USCIS is committed to embracing our nation’s highest values by expanding legal migration pathways and administering humanitarian programs that allow for greater access to protection for eligible individuals,” Renaud continued.

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