[Photo by Photo by Captain Roger Fenton]

On June 11, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions overturned a landmark precedent, the culmination of decades of work by advocates, lawyers, scholars and judges that expressly affirmed gender-based violence as grounds for asylum in all immigration courts in the United States.  IANGEL is greatly concerned about the implications of this decision for women’s human rights and gender justice in the United States and worldwide.

In his decision, Sessions reversed a grant of asylum to Ms. A.B., a Salvadoran domestic violence survivor who sought asylum from a government that failed to protect her against life-threatening violence from her spouse.  Sessions employed troubling legal procedures to issue a new precedent which attempts to rewrite the law in an effort to block most asylum claims from women fleeing gender-based violence.  His decision expressly minimizes the impact of domestic violence while undoing decades of advocacy pushing the United States and other governments to recognize their obligation to protect women as well as men from violence.

IANGEL is concerned about the dramatic implications of this decision, as Session’s retrograde views on gender-based violence could have a broader impact on women throughout the United States, not just those seeking asylum.  Critically, Sessions’ decision attempts to reframe gender-based violence as a private matter, and therefore not a matter of state responsibility.

Precedents like the one Sessions is seeking to undermine are crucial to the protection of women’s human rights, because they affirm in clear and explicit language that women are entitled to protection under U.S. and international law. We spoke to local retired immigration judge Carol King about the implications of this decision. She explained, “It is really important that the law allows for women to apply for asylum based on domestic violence from places where they are not protected. This precedent [overturned by Sessions] was not easily won but came out of a history of many years of resistance and development. We worked for years, piece by piece, building this over a long period of time.”

Session’s decision dismisses the trauma women, men, their families, and society face from domestic violence.  His decision further seeks to limit the state’s responsibility to address gender-based violence.  This is particularly worrying since as Attorney General, Sessions is responsible for enforcing the Violence Against Women Act, which is also under threat.   Sessions’ decision is a significant step backwards in the struggle for equality and gender justice. We hope you will join IANGEL in challenging this decision and protecting human rights.

How to Help:

1. Track court of appeals cases and denials for advocacy with the Center for Refugee and Gender Studies (CGRS), co-counsel on the case:

  • Tracking Court of Appeals Cases: identify cases pending before the federal courts of appeals that may raise challenges to the A-B- ruling by filling out this short survey
  • Tracking Denials to Support CGRS Advocacy on this Issue: Help CGRS collect information on compelling cases denied under A-B- (even if not yet ripe for circuit court appeal) by emailing  CGRS-ABtracking@uchastings.edu.

2. Sign our online petition with Global Fund for Women demanding that Jeff Sessions reverse his decision in Matter of A-B-.

3. Raise your voice! There needs to be loud outcry from lawyers and women’s rights advocates as the Attorney General attacks human rights.   Re-tweet, post and email our statement and news articles about this decision.

4. Consider volunteering for IANGEL: We mobilize a network of lawyers to support gender justice and women’s rights locally, nationally, and globally. Join our network become part of a movement of lawyers ready to respond and guarantee women’s human rights and gender justice.

Sessions’ Asylum Decision on Domestic Violence an Attack on Women’s Rights
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