CGRS collaborates with human rights organizations in the U.S. and abroad to address gender-based violence and other human rights violations. Through in-depth fact finding we seek to address the root causes of the persecution that forces women, children, and LGBT refugees to flee their homes in addition to supporting their claims for asylum. Our fact-finding work, in partnership with the UC Hastings Refugee and Human Rights Clinic, has focused in Central America and Haiti and recently expanded to the Central Asia region. We also use international human rights mechanisms to hold governments accountable to their legal and moral obligations to those facing persecution.
Individuals have the right to seek asylum in the United States in a system that fairly considers their claims for protection. However, certain immigration courts within the U.S. system have utterly failed to provide meaningful access to asylum, denying virtually all asylum claims before them. These are what we call "asylum free zones." The Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which houses the immigration courts, has known of this problem for many years—multiple studies by scholars and the government itself have documented the astronomical denial rates of certain courts—yet failed to take corrective action. CGRS filed a request for a hearing with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights arguing that the conduct of EOIR’s immigration courts violates the human rights of asylum seekers, including access to a meaningful forum to hear their claims, and the U.S. obligation of nonrefoulement (a concept which prohibits the return of people to countries where they fear persecution).
CGRS completed a multi-year, multi-national collaboration to increase knowledge and understanding of the treatment of children in the Central America-Mexico-U.S. migration corridor. Unprecedented in scope, Human Rights, Children, and Migration in Central and North America: Causes, Policies, Practices, and Challenges, is available here. The study was a joint project with the Centro de Derechos Humanos at Universidad Nacional de Lanús in Buenos Aires, Argentina (CDHUNLa) and involved a dozen collaborating organizations in the U.S., Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Through a series of briefings with key policymakers, CGRS is pushing members of Congress and the Administration to implement the study’s recommendations for addressing gaps in protections for child migrants.
Gender-motivated killing (termed “femicide”) is of major concern in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, where it joins other forms of gender-based violence such as sexual assault and domestic violence as serious and endemic problems. CGRS conducts research and works with partners on the ground in these countries to combat gender-based violence. We have also worked to bring these issues to the attention of decision makers in the United States and Canada.
Violence against women in Haiti is rampant and committed with impunity. The 2010 earthquake exacerbated existing structural inequalities and produced a spike in sexual exploitation. CGRS addresses sexual violence in Haiti by advancing legal and policy reforms to prevent violence and combat impunity for aggressors. We hold the Haitian government accountable for its obligations to prevent and punish gender violence. We also work to secure protection for women and girls in the United States and abroad when the Haitian legal system fails. Recently, we also began to advocate for the human rights of LGBT individuals in Haiti. CGRS collaborates closely with local grassroots organizations and lawyers.
While the Constitutions of both Tajikistan and Afghanistan guarantee women's equality, these legal protections are new and face many cultural obstacles, including a lack of public awareness. Displaced and refugee women and girls have especially limited access to legal protections. CGRS is working with the Danish Refugee Council, Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan, and Right & Prosperity in Tajikistan to provide access to legal aid for gender-based violence survivors, to to hold the perpetrators of violence accountable. This two-year project has funding from the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women.
Human rights activists become targets of violence in many parts of the world, including Guatemala, where violent crime is rampant and impunity is widespread. In August 2007, Pepe Mendez, the son of internationally recognized Guatemalan human rights activist Amilcar Mendez, was assassinated. CGRS joined with allies in the international community to call for a thorough investigation of this murder and a trial to bring those responsible to justice.