Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a new opinion that will prevent many immigrant survivors of horrific abuse from receiving protection in the United States. In a case called Matter of A-R-C-G-, the Board of Immigration Appeals held that survivors of domestic violence could receive asylum as members of a particular social group protected by U.S. law. In 2018, Matter of A-R-C-G- was pushed aside by a decision of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, claiming that domestic violence survivors are generally not entitled to asylum. Earlier this year, Matter of A-R-C-G- was reinstated by the Biden administration but the Fifth Circuit has now overruled that decision.
“This is just the latest legal blow to immigrant survivors seeking protection from gender-based abuse and exploitation,” said Archi Pyati, CEO of the Tahirih Justice Center. “Time and again, the experiences of survivors of violence are discredited, misunderstood, and ignored by asylum officers, immigration judges, and federal courts. It begs the question: when will the U.S. finally make clear – like other nations already have – that survivors of gender-based violence do qualify for asylum?”
The Fifth Circuit’s opinion illustrates the need to protect all survivors of gender-based violence by adding gender as a sixth ground for asylum in the Immigration and Nationality Act. In its report Ensuring Equal and Enduring Access to Asylum: Why ‘Gender’ Must be a Protected Ground, Tahirih shows that current U.S. asylum laws fail to adequately and consistently protect survivors fleeing domestic violence – leaving them vulnerable to further abuse and trauma. The inclusion of gender as a sixth ground is one of several critical steps needed to transform our immigration system into one that fully understands and meets the needs of immigrant survivors of gender-based violence.
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