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This article was originally published in Houston Chronicle on October 28, 2014. You can access the original article here:

The Houston Chronicle on Tuesday highlighted the potentially lifesaving impact of a decision from the highest immigration court in the nation, which confirms that women who have experienced domestic violence may qualify for asylum.

The newspaper interviewed Tahirih Houston Senior Staff Attorney Samantha Del Bosque to learn more about how the ruling could impact the lives of immigrant women who have endured extreme domestic violence and cannot escape their partners, often due to a culture of “machismo” and a failure of authorities, such as police and courts, to adequately respond to the crime.

The Chronicle piece begins with the story of “Martha,” a girl from Honduras who was brutally abused by her boyfriend:

If an immigration judge had heard the Honduran girl’s horrific story of sexual and physical abuse just a few months ago, the court likely would have done little for the teenager, who says her gangster boyfriend threw her down a flight of stairs and struck her so hard in her head that her ears rang for hours. But a landmark ruling in August from the nation’s highest immigration court now opens the door for victims of domestic violence, like Martha, to apply for residency status, which was once extraordinarily difficult to obtain on the basis of abuse.

Martha, like hundreds of Tahirih clients, now has a better chance at finding justice in the wake of domestic violence as a result of the ruling from the Board of Immigration Appeals, which was based on the case of a married woman from Guatemala who was unable to leave her abusive relationship.

Tahirih, which has represented women fleeing domestic violence since 1997, believes that additional action is still critical to ensure protection for immigrant women and girls. In its national policy advocacy, Tahirih continues to urge the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security to establish regulations that would prevent disparity in outcomes for women like Martha.

Featured photo by Eric Kane | Courtesy of Houston Chronicle