On June 11, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a devastating decision in an attempt to reverse decades of progress in protections for domestic and sexual violence survivors and others who look to the United States for refuge. Invoking a rarely utilized power to certify the case to himself, Sessions reversed the immigration judge’s grant of asylum to a Salvadoran domestic violence survivor in a case known as Matter of A-B-. Ms. A.B. fled to the United States after suffering 15 years of brutal violence at the hands of her ex-husband. Sessions held that violence by non-government actors such as a spouse or gang members would generally not qualify a person for protection, despite the fact that their government was ineffective at protecting them.
This decision, paired with the recent increase in prosecutions of asylum-seekers and the separation of children from their parents, send the chilling message that the Executive branch will stop at nothing to deport anyone without pre-approved legal status, as swiftly and inhumanely as possible to deter future migration.
The effects of these policies are also reaching Washington State: Over 200 parents who have been separated from their children after crossing the southern border are now being held at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac, awaiting “credible fear” interviews. The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project reports, based on dozens of screenings that they have conducted so far, that a large number of these individuals could be negatively impacted by the Matter of A.B decision, as they are fleeing domestic abuse and gang violence.
Immigration advocates are working to challenge Sessions’ decision in Matter of A.B., and this case does not mean the end of asylum for all domestic violence survivors or victims of private actors because the Attorney General’s decision will be subject to review in the Circuit Court of Appeals. However, this case will create an additional barrier to what was already an uphill battle for many (especially the 86% of detained immigrants in removal proceedings who do not have a lawyer), and appeals can take years. In the meantime, it is likely that many asylum-seekers will feel the pressure to give up and return to face dangers in their home countries rather than face indefinite detention and separation from their children.
Use your voice to stand up for immigrants seeking protection from violence. Look below for suggestions, from Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, on how to do so.
HOW CAN I TAKE ACTION?
- Volunteer with NWIRP to provide a legal screening to immigrants being held at the FDC in SeaTac.
Spanish-speaking attorneys, particularly with a background in immigration law – as well as Cantonese-speaking attorneys are especially in demand. If you are a Spanish-speaking or Cantonese-speaking attorney interested in volunteering, please contact Jordan Wasserman at email@example.com.
- Reach out to your congressperson and tell them to support Senator Dianne Feinstein’s ‘Keep Families Together’ Act
On Friday, June 8th, Senate Judiciary Committee Member Dianne Feinstein and 31 of her colleagues introduced legislation to keep immigrant families together by preventing the Department of Homeland Security from taking children from their parents at the border. Click here to view a list of legislators who have co-sponsored the bill. If your congressperson is not on this list, reach out to them and tell them to support this bill and end the immoral separation of families at the border. Find your Senators’ contact information here.
- Reach out to your congressperson and tell them to support the ‘Fair Day in Court for Kids’ Act of 2018
On February 28th, Senator Mazie Hirono introduced legislation in the Senate to provide access to counsel for unaccompanied immigrant children and youth. On April 6th, Representative Zoe Lofgren introduced a House version of the bill. Reach out to your congressperson and tell them to support this bill and end the immoral separation of families at the border. Find your Senators’ contact information here. Find your Representatives’ contact information here.
- Publish an op-ed or press statement
Publish an op-ed or press statement expressing your support for critical protections for survivors of domestic violence seeking asylum in the United States. You can use CGRS’s press release as a model, or refer to one of those issued by our allies:
American Immigration Lawyers Association
Human Rights First
Kids in Need of Defense
National Immigrant Justice Center
Southern Poverty Law Center
Tahirih Justice Center
Women’s Refugee Commission
- Sign petitions from Tahirih Justice Center and the ACLU
Sign online petitions from Tahirih Justice Center and the ACLU demanding that Jeff Sessions reverse his decision in Matter of A-B-.
- Share your support on social media
Raise your voice on social media! Share some of the good press coverage of Matter of A-B- (links below). Circulate your statement or amplify those of others. Use the hashtags #ProtectSurvivors #ImmigrantWomenToo.
Sample Facebook post:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions just issued an alarming decision that attempts to erode hard-won protections for women and girls fleeing violence at the hands of abusive partners and family members. Learn more and use your voice to stand up for immigrant survivors of domestic violence. #ProtectSurvivors #ImmigrantWomenToo
Attorney General Sessions is attempting to close the door to women and girls fleeing persecution. Women’s rights are human rights and our country must continue to #ProtectSurvivors! #ImmigrantWomenTooWomen fleeing life-threatening persecution have a legal right to apply for asylum in the U.S. We must not let Attorney General Sessions turn back the clock on protections for women refugees! #ProtectSurvivors #ImmigrantWomenToo
- Represent a woman facing deportation
If you are an attorney or accredited representative, consider taking on the case of an asylum seeker facing deportation under the Attorney General’s restrictive ruling in A-B-:
CLINIC’s BIA Pro Bono Appeals Project
Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project’s Pro Bono Program
Santa Fe Dreamers Project (or email Allegra Love at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Immigration Advocates Network Pro Bono Resource Volunteer Guide
Press and other coverage of Matter of A-B-
‘Back to the Dark Ages’: Sessions’s asylum ruling reverses decades of women’s rights progress, critics say (Washington Post)
Victims Of Domestic Abuse, Gangs To Be Denied Asylum In U.S. (NPR)
S. attorney general curbs asylum for immigrant victims of violence (Reuters)
Sessions Says Domestic and Gang Violence Are Not Grounds for Asylum (NYT)
Her Husband Beat Her and Raped Her. Jeff Sessions Might Deport Her (NYT)
This Salvadoran Woman Is At The Center Of The Attorney General’s Asylum Crackdown (NPR)
Jeff Sessions Wants to Shut the Doors on Survivors of Domestic Violence (MADRE)