Advocates Urge Attorney General Garland to End Policies That Endanger Women and Families Seeking Asylum

Friday, June 11, 2021

On the three-year anniversary of the reprehensible Matter of A-B- ruling, representatives from the more than 70 organizations comprising the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign urged the Biden administration to end Trump-era cruelty and restore fairness to the asylum process. Through a series of restrictive Justice Department opinions, the Trump administration gutted protections for refugee women and families, making it nearly impossible for people fleeing gender-based violence, gang brutality, and other harms to find safety in the United States. As the Biden administration ends the unlawful border closure and begins asylum processing, these legal precedents continue to rig the system against people seeking protection - resulting in unjust denials that endanger refugees. Attorney General Merrick Garland has the ability and the moral imperative to reverse the inhumane policies of his predecessors and save lives.

“Jeff Sessions upended our laws and abandoned our values by declaring that people fleeing gender-based violence, gang brutality, and other human rights violations are undeserving of protection,” said Blaine Bookey, Legal Director at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) and lead counsel in the case known as Matter of A-B-. “Three years later, our client Ms. A.B. is still fighting to reverse Sessions’ devastating decision in her case. Until that ruling is overturned, along with all other restrictive Trump-era precedents, the courts will continue to wrongly deny protection to refugees and order people like Ms. A.B. deported to the very dangers they’ve fled. It’s past time for the Biden administration to make good on its promises and put an end to this cruelty.”

“For me to go back to El Salvador, I don’t even want to think about it,” Ms. A.B. has said. “I might end up like other women who are no longer here to tell their story. People don’t understand that we are fleeing for our lives, fleeing the possibility of being assassinated. I feel like the courts are playing with me.”

"I fled domestic violence in Honduras in 2014 and thought I would be safe in the United States,” added Maribel, an asylum seeker and member of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP). “While I was waiting for my case to be decided, the Trump administration changed the law to make it more difficult for women like me to find safety in the United States. I have been fighting my case and waiting for this new government to do the right thing and ensure that women like me who have suffered domestic abuse are not deported back to our abusers.”

“I fled my home in Guatemala to save my life and my children’s,” said Blanca, an asylee and member leader at Mujeres Unidas y Activas. “When Jeff Sessions said domestic violence was just a ‘private’ matter, that was an expression of patriarchal power. He justified violence against women just like my abuser and the government in my home country did. It is urgent that Merrick Garland fulfill the promise of the Biden administration to protect women and children fleeing violence.”

Katharina Obser, Acting Director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) stated, “Nearly five months into this administration, the country is still desperately waiting for an asylum system that is fair, just, and dignified. Key to such a system must be undoing the devastating Trump-era rulings that sought to make it nearly impossible for women, families, and others fleeing gender-based and gang violence to qualify for asylum. Unless decisions such as Matter of A-B- and others are vacated, changing asylum procedures at the U.S. border and beyond will only set up countless women, families, and others to fail in what should otherwise likely result in successful asylum claims. We urge the Biden administration to immediately do right by those seeking safety in the United States and finally fully restore asylum.”

“The Trump administration used every tool it could to rig adjudications to deny asylum to refugees in need of protection,” wrote Eleanor Acer, Senior Director of Refugee Protection at Human Rights First. “Attorney General Jeff Sessions attempted to rewrite U.S. asylum law himself through his ruling in Matter of A-B-. The ruling not only flouts long standing precedent but it runs contrary to U.S. obligations under the Refugee Convention and Protocol. Every day that ruling remains in place, women and families who have fled horrific violence risk being returned to life-threatening dangers. Nearly five months into the Biden administration, it is past time to undo the damage and ensure refugees are protected by the U.S. asylum system.”   

"Nearly five months into the Biden administration, survivors of gender-based violence continue to be denied the protection under the law they desperately need and rightfully deserve," Noah Gottschalk, Global Policy Lead at Oxfam America, said. "With the stroke of a pen, Attorney General Garland can easily overturn this xenophobic Trump-era policy and finally put an end to the unjust denials of people fleeing horrific persecution in search of safety. Instead, the inexplicable and inexcusable decision to keep this shameful and sexist policy in place, alongside other cruel Trump-era asylum policies such as Title 42, is leading countless people to be wrongfully denied refuge and exposed to violence, or even death, at the hands of their abusers. It's well past time for Attorney General Garland to take a stand and enact critical asylum protections in accordance with US and international law."

“While we were hopeful the Biden administration would reimagine the asylum system from day one, 142 days later we still cannot give any modicum of assurance that our laws and institutions will protect those fleeing gender-based persecution and torture,” wrote Munmeeth Soni, Immigrant Defenders Law Center. “We still cannot tell our clients that our government will ‘reassert America's commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees’ as Biden promised. The American people voted the Biden/Harris team in for a reason, and it wasn't to continue the Trump agenda."

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