AG Jeff Sessions: Statement and Call to Attention

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In 2016, the Board of Immigration Appeals, the highest administrative body for applying immigration law, issued a precedential decision: recognizing domestic violence as a basis for asylum. This specific case involved multiple survivors of domestic violence fleeing abusive and dangerous relationships, each of whom had sought safety and justice in their respective countries before coming to the United States.

Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions overturned the Board’s decision, reversing a long established legal precedent. By revoking protections for survivors of domestic violence seeking asylum in the United States, Sessions demonstrates this administration’s regressive values and sets us back to a time when domestic violence was not considered an injustice worthy of attention. By denying asylum to women seeking protection from domestic violence or any form of persecution, Sessions impacts the futures of thousands of survivors seeking refuge and provides less protection to an already vulnerable population.

As organizations that work to empower South Asian survivors of domestic violence, we are aware of the obstacles survivors face in their home country and have worked with many who had no other option but to leave their family and country for safety from their abuser. These survivors often leave with their children in hopes of safety for both themselves and their children. It is not uncommon for their abusers to be in position of authority, have influence over access to justice or make violent threats to survivor’s families. This ruling ignores the fact that domestic violence is a form of gender based violence and that survivors who are often women, are being persecuted based on their gender. It is not just a private criminal activity especially when victims are not able to get help and justice in their home countries based on their government’s unwillingness/inability to intervene and/or abuser’s influence over law enforcement and courts. Survivors fleeing domestic violence in their home country are asking for asylum, a legal status, and should be able to ask for this status without being criminalized or being separated from their children when they are fleeing from systemic abuse in their home country and their homes.

With recent raids and shifts in immigration policies nationally, we have already seen a significant drop in survivors reporting domestic violence for fear of deportation. Rulings such as these, perpetuate sexism and xenophobia by devaluing the abuse survivors of domestic violence endure.

Domestic violence is a cross-border scourge that demands a global response as well as local action. To deny asylum to those fleeing violence is to deny our nation’s responsibility and influence. Congress should reject the Attorney General’s decision, and work in a bipartisan manner to exercise greater oversight of the Administration’s immigration policies that harm survivors of domestic violence and gang violence.

We call upon our allies to stand with us in solidarity and in support of all survivors who are currently fighting to be heard and seeking refuge in order to live safe and be free from violence. We call upon the criminal and civil justice systems, community, and faith based organizations, employers, and public agencies as well to support this basic human right.

By calling upon our community and representatives to join us in condemning this ruling, we demonstrate our commitment to support survivors and dedication toward advocating for justice. It is imperative for us to stand up and advocate to repeal Sessions’ decision.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

1. Sign Tahirih Justice Center’s online petition demanding that Jeff Sessions reverse his decision in Matter of A-B-.

2. Call your Senators and Representatives to express your concern for asylum seekers fleeing gender-based persecution. You can use the following script:

“Hello. My name is ____ and I live in (City, State). I am calling to ask Senator/ Representative ____ to stand up for immigrant women and girls fleeing gender-based persecution by seeking revocation of Attorney General Sessions’ decision in the Matter of A-B. Thank you.”

3. Stay tuned for further information on the implications of Sessions’ decision on immigrant survivors of domestic violence.

4. Donate to your local South Asian Women’s Organization to support us in our work to end gender based violence in our communities.

Resources to read more:

1. Matter of A-R-C-G- Board of Immigration Appeals Holds that Guatemalan Woman Fleeing Domestic Violence Meets Threshold Asylum Requirement by the Harvard Law Review

2. Attorney General Sessions Attempts to Close the Door to Women Refugees by The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies

3. “Fleeing Domestic or Gang Violence? No Asylum for You” by Margaret Abraham, NY Times Opinion

Sample Facebook post

Attorney General Jeff Sessions just issued an alarming decision that undermines hard-won protections for women and girls fleeing domestic violence. Learn more and use your voice to stand up for immigrant survivors of domestic violence. #ProtectSurvivors #ImmigrantWomenToo [INSERT LINK TO OP-ED OR PRESS STATEMENT]

Sample Tweets

Attorney General Sessions is attempting to close the door to women and girls fleeing persecution. Domestic violence survivors deserve access to safety & justice. #ProtectSurvivors #ImmigrantWomenToo

Women fleeing life-threatening persecution have a legal right to apply for asylum in the U.S. We must not let AG Sessions turn back the clock on protections #domesticviolencesurvivors #ProtectSurvivors #ImmigrantWomenToo

Signatures:

Adhikaar
Apna Ghar
ASHA for Women
Daya, Inc.
Kiran
Maitri
Manavi
Saheli, Inc.
Sakhi for South Asian Women
Sapna NYC
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
South Asian Network
South Asian Public Health Association (SAPHA)
Raksha, Inc

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