Our sincere gratitude goes out to everyone who took action in defense of asylum and to Chapman and Cutler LLP for assisting Sanctuary in submitting a detailed comment to DHS & DOJ.
The Trump administration has just proposed regulations that would effectively eliminate gender-based asylum claims, prohibiting individuals fleeing domestic violence, human trafficking, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, anti-LGBTQ violence, and other forms of gender-based persecution from seeking safe haven in the United States. By codifying into federal law its numerous and sprawling anti-asylum policies, these rules represent the most consequential attempt by this administration to dismantle asylum protection for the most vulnerable survivors.
Relying on the decision in Matter of A-B- by Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the rules propose a change to the very definition of “refugee”— a crucial protection created under international law and enshrined in the Immigration and Nationality Act. The rules further eliminate any possibility of protection for survivors of domestic violence and anti-LGBTQ violence by framing such violence as “private criminal acts” or “interpersonal disputes.”
At Sanctuary, we work with gender violence survivors, 70% of whom are immigrants. Many are seeking asylum due to extreme intimate partner violence, female genital mutilation (FGM), and/or death threats they experienced in their home countries.
Click here to learn more about our work or continue reading for instructions on how to push back on the Trump administration’s latest effort.
The proposed asylum rule represents an unconscionable attack on our clients and others seeking humanitarian protections to escape violence, protect themselves and their families, and work towards a new life. With assistance from Chapman and Cutler LLP, Sanctuary submitted a detailed comment urging the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to withdraw the proposed rules in their entirety.
HOW TO SUBMIT A COMMENT
Our friends at Immigration Equality have created an Individual action takers guide that includes sample comments asking DHS and DOJ to withdraw the proposed rule. All you need to do is personalize the sample comment and briefly explain, in your own voice, why the U.S. must preserve access to protection for all asylum seekers, including survivors of gender-based violence. Comments must be submitted by 11:59 PM ET on Wed. July 15.
Please, DO NOT copy and submit the sample comment as it is—The U.S. government is required by law to review and respond to unique comments only. We strongly encourage you to personalize your message so that it speaks to your own individual and/or professional experiences.
You can also find visit the Interfaith Immigration Coalition’s asylum rule web-hub to find detailed templates specifically geared towards attorneys and legal service providers by the Tahirih Justice Center, National Immigrant Justice Center, Immigration Equality, and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), among others representing specific perspectives (e.g., templates from the Alliance for Immigrant Survivors for domestic violence/sexual assault advocates, from the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights for children’s advocates, from Physicians for Human Rights for health professionals, and from the Coalition to End Violence Against Women taking a U.S. foreign policy angle).
SANCTUARY’S IMMIGRATION WORK
For over 30 years, Sanctuary for Families has served and advocated for survivors of gender violence regardless of immigration status, offering the highest quality of legal representation to clients in order to protect their right to due process.
In the face of Matter of A-B– and other anti-immigrant policies, Sanctuary’s Immigration Intervention Project has led the field in fighting for our clients and other survivors of gender-based violence, advancing—and winning—asylum claims on their behalf based on theories of feminist political opinion. Take, for example, our client Ms. O-T-, a Honduran woman who testified before a judge at the New York Immigration Court in the fall of 2019.
Ms. O-T-‘s Story
As a young woman from a rural village in Guatemala who was removed from school at the age of 9 and who spoke little Spanish and no English, Ms. O-T’s pro se I-589 application demonstrated little to no understanding of the legal framework underlying her valid claim for asylum, let alone the type of evidence supportive of her claim. With the help of Sanctuary counsel, Ms. O-T- was able to testify to the court not just about the severity of the harm she experienced at the hands of her husband, but also about the many ways her individual actions expressing independence from both her husband and the patriarchal community to which she belonged prompted increased violence and threats to her body and her life.
For the first time since entering the United States and asking for asylum protection, Ms. O-T- felt liberated to tell her story simply and directly. Her testimony—sincere and succinct, and punctuated by moments of emotional release—served to assist the judge in ascertaining not just the factual elements underlying her claim for asylum but also her credibility as a witness. Even the government’s cross-examination of her testimony served to solidify her claim as she further clarified some of the more complicated aspects of her experience as a survivor. The court’s ultimate finding—that this young woman was persecuted by her partner because of her feminist political opinion—would have been impossible under the Proposed Regulation since it allows for the pretermission of an asylum application that does not, on its face, present a legally cognizable claim for asylum.
Taking Action for Our Clients
Sanctuary’s immigration team has consistently, and with success, argued before the immigration courts and the asylum office about the importance of country conditions evidence in framing our client’s claim for asylum within a specific cultural and political context. The Proposed Rules would bar consideration of such evidence, ignoring the reality that persecution of an individual cannot be considered in a vacuum and must be looked within the context of wider societal realities remains.
Now more than ever, we stand committed to pushing back against the incremental erosion of the rights of immigrant survivors seeking protection in this country. Please join us by taking action today.
Learn more about our recent immigration advocacy efforts here.