Asylum for Particular Social Groups: Domestic Violence Victims

By The Law Office of Yifei He, PLLC

Domestic Violence as Basis for Asylum in the US

Asylum offers protection to refugees in the US who have been persecuted or fear persecution by their home country due to:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership in a particular social group
  • Political opinion

An asylum seeker must prove their persection was triggered by race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, and their government is unwilling or unable to protect them from such.

Refugees who are granted asylum receive a variety of benefits and opportunities in the US. Although applicants are NOT guaranteed asylum in the United States, those that are granted asylum could access several benefits, including:

  • Authorization to work in the US
  • Asylum for family members
  • Green Card (after 1 year in the US)
  • Financial and medical assistance

While all of this sounds nice, there are questionable limits against domestic violence victims. Unfortunately, the United States currently makes it very difficult to obtain asylum as a victim of domestic violence.

Why Most Domestic Violence Victims Can’t Get Asylum

On June 11, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions attempted to end the recognition that domestic violence is a form of persecution and a basis for asylum protection. In Matter of A-B-, Sessions reversed the grant of asylum to a Salvadoran domestic violence survivor. The attorney general revoked the administrative Board of Immigration Appeals’ 2014 decision, Matter of A-R-C-G-, which held that Guatemalan “married women who are unable to leave their relationship” constituted a protected social group.

As if that’s not bad enough,Sessions also ordered immigration judges and asylum officers to deny these claims. Deborah Anker of the American Bar Association sums up this matter clearly:

“Sessions broadly pronounced that asylum claims ‘pertaining to domestic violence’ should ‘generally’ no longer be approved. This clearly represented a setback not just for women asylum seekers but for women generally to be protected against sexual violence and coercion, a right raised almost every day now by the #MeToo movement …”

Is There Hope for Victims Seeking Asylum in the US?

While it may seem virtually impossible for domestic violence victims to get asylum in the US, there are limited circumstances in which they could prevail.

For context, Particular Social Group is a “common, immutable characteristic” that “members of the group either cannot change, or should not be required to change because it is fundamental to their individual identities or consciences.” This definition was brought by The Board of Immigration Appeals’ 1985 decision in Matter of Acosta. As such, female asylum seekers who fear domestic violence for gender-based reasons could potentially be considered a Particular Social Group. For example, females who fear genital mutilation by their spouses would succeed.

Fighting to Defy the Odds

If you or a loved one is seeking asylum in the US because you are a victim of domestic violence, learn about your legal options today. As you can see from the information above, many victims of domestic abuse are ineligible to apply for asylum, but not all hope is lost. Depending on your circumstances, our lawyer may be able to help you apply for asylum and advocate for your rights.

Contact our New York City asylum lawyer online or at 1 (917) 338-7678!