Those looking for legal analysis should read no further. The following is a cry from the heart.
The respondent’s personal nightmare began the year after her marriage. For the next 15 years, she was subjected to relentless physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
It is most apt that Donald Trump became president by beating a woman. His campaign historically provoked millions to march in angry protest of his denigration of women on his first full day in office.
“The violence inflicted on [her] took many forms. Her husband beat her repeatedly, bashing her against the wall and kicking her, including while she was pregnant. He raped her on countless occasions.”
On Monday, Trump’s Attorney General announced that women who are victims of domestic violence should no longer be deemed to merit protection from our government in the form of political asylum.
Sessions’ action was shockingly tone deaf. As the wonderful Rebecca Solnit wrote in her 2013 essay "The Longest War:" "We have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this Earth, though it's almost never treated as a civil rights or human rights issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern. Violence doesn't have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender." The year after Solnit wrote those words, our Department of Justice took a step in the right direction. In recognizing domestic violence as a basis for asylum, our government was finally recognizing such gender-based abuse as a human rights issue, at least in the limited forum of immigration law.
“He also frequently threatened to kill her, at times holding a knife to her neck, and at other times brandishing a gun or, while she was pregnant, threatening to hang her from the ceiling by a rope.” The above were supported by sworn statements provided by the respondents’ neighbors.
It is only very recently that our society has begun to hold accountable those who commit gender-based abuses against women. #MeToo is a true civil rights movement, one that is so very long overdue. In opposing such movement, Jeff Sessions is casting himself as a modern day George Wallace. It bears repeating that no one, no one, was challenging the settled precedent that victims of domestic violence may be granted asylum as members of a particular social group. When the precedent case was before the Board of Immigration Appeals, the Department of Homeland Security, i.e. the enforcement agency prosecuting the case, filed a brief in which it conceded that the group consisting of “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship” satisfied all of the legal criteria, and was therefore a proper particular social group under the law. No one has appealed or challenged that determination in the four years since. Who is Jeff Sessions, who has never practiced immigration law in his life, to just toss out such determination because he and only he disagrees?
The respondent’s “husband controlled, humiliated, and isolated her from others. He insulted her ‘constantly,’ calling her a ‘slut’ or ‘dog.’ He did not want her to work outside the house and believed ‘a woman’s place was in the home like a servant.’ When he came home in the middle of the night, he forced her out of bed to serve him food, saying things like ‘Bitch, feed me.”
Like Wallace before him, who in 1963 stood in front of the door of the University of Alabama trying in vain to block the entry of four black students, Sessions is trying to block a national movement whose time has come. As with Wallace and the Civil Rights Movement, justice will eventually prevail. But now as then, people deserving of his protection will die in the interim.
“Although [her] husband frequently slept with other women, he falsely accused her of infidelity, at times removing her undergarments to inspect her genitals. He also beat their children in front of her, causing her serious psychological damage.”
The AG’s decision was intentionally released during the first day of the Immigration Judges’ Training Conference. There have been ideological-based appointments of immigration judges under both the Trump and Bush administrations. Several persons present at the conference reported that when the decision was announced, some immigration judges cheered. It was definitely a minority; the majority of immigration judges are very decent, caring people. But it was more than a few; one of my sources described it as “many,” another as “a noteworthy minority.”
Think about that: some federally appointed immigration judges cheered the fact that women who had been violently raped and beaten in their country can no longer find refuge here, and will be sent back to face more violence, and possibly death. Will there be any consequences for their actions? Were the many outstanding immigration judges who have been proud to grant such cases in the past, who were saddened and sickened by this decision, able to openly jeer or weep or curse this decision? Or would that have been viewed as dangerous?
The respondent “believes her life will be in danger” if returned to her country, “where her ex-husband, supported by his police officer brother, has vowed to kill her. She does not believe there is anywhere” in her country “she could find safety.
Victims of domestic violence will continue to file applications for asylum. They will argue before immigration judges that their claims meet the legal criteria even under the AG’s recent decision. Unfortunately, some of those applicants will have their cases heard by immigration judges who, when they heard that the woman whose claim was described in the italicized sections was denied asylum by Jeff Sessions, and will now likely be deported to suffer more such abuse or death, cheered.
The sections in italics are the facts of the asylum-seeker in Matter of A-B-, (including quotes from her appeal brief) who was denied asylum on Monday by Jeff Sessions.
Copyright 2018 Jeffrey S. Chase. All rights reserved.