Matter of A-B- Amicus Project

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UPDATE: Following years of hard-fought litigation and advocacy, on June 16, 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland vacated the Matter of A-B- ruling, restoring critical pathways to protection for refugee survivors of gender-based violence and gang brutality.

What is the government doing and why are we challenging it?

In Matter of A-B-, the Attorney General tried to categorically restrict asylum for survivors of domestic violence. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has heeded this call and is interpreting the decision with this intent in mind, denying protection to countless applicants without an individualized consideration of the facts of each person’s case. In effect, the BIA is treating Matter of A-B- as if it is actually a hard and fast rule against any domestic violence survivor being granted asylum.

The only recourse for such survivors is to seek a petition for review in a federal appellate court. We are helping attorneys fight these cases, by providing legal consultation through our technical assistance and training program, and by appearing as co-counsel or amicus in individual cases, submitting briefs and where possible, participating in oral argument. Our goal is to provide the federal appellate courts with the best possible arguments to give them the opportunity to overrule Matter of A-B- and restore protection for domestic violence survivors seeking asylum.

What’s the status of these cases?

We have made significant progress, winning a series of promising victories at the courts of appeals in 2020 and 2021. In April the First Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case of a domestic violence survivor from the Dominican Republic, De Pena-Paniagua v. Barr, finding that the Board had erred in using Matter of A-B- as justification to deprive her of a fair hearing. CGRS had submitted an amicus brief in support of Ms. De Pena-Paniagua and taken part in oral argument in 2019.

In August 2020 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals published an opinion in Diaz-Reynoso v. Barraffirming unequivocally that the administration cannot categorically reject domestic violence-related claims or use Matter of A-B- to single survivors out for discriminatory treatment. The Court applied its holding in two other casesFuentes-Reyes v. Barr and Arellano Rodriguez v. Barr, remanding those cases to the Board as well. CGRS had filed amicus briefing in all three cases and presented oral argument before the Ninth Circuit panel in March.

The Ninth Circuit issued another positive precedent ruling in Rodriguez Tornes v. Garland in April 2021. CGRS supported the petitioner, Ms. Rodriguez Tornes, as amicus in the case, which was brought by the Tahirih Justice Center and pro bono attorneys at Munger Tolles & Olson LLP.

While several other cases remain pending in various courts of appeals, these recent victories will blunt the impact of Matter of A-B- in future adjudications, particularly within the Ninth and First Circuits.

Whose life is at stake?

Asylum seekers helped by the Matter of A-B- Amicus Project are women and children who have suffered severe domestic abuse in their home countries from intimate partners or family members, and whose governments are unable or unwilling to protect them.

Who’s involved?

The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies is partnering with advocates around the country to help provide the strongest possible defense for asylum seekers denied on the basis of Matter of A-B-. If you are an attorney and would like us to consider involvement with your client’s petition for review, please contact us at

How can you help?

Need more information?

Contact Brianna Krong, Communications and Advocacy Coordinator, at

Legal Resources

If you are an attorney and would like us to consider involvement with your client’s petition for review, please contact us at  

Press Releases and Commentary

Advocates Urge Attorney General Garland to End Policies That Endanger Women and Families Seeking Asylum | June 11, 2021

Advocates and Asylum Seekers Urge Swift Action from Garland to Protect Women and Families Seeking Asylum | April 27, 2021

Rodriguez Tornes v. Garland: Ninth Circuit Reaffirms Asylum for Survivors | April 9, 2021

Federal Court Upholds Asylum for Domestic Violence Survivors | April 27, 2020

CGRS Applauds Ninth Circuit Decisions Upholding Asylum for Survivors of Domestic Violence | August 11, 2020

Ninth Circuit Upholds Asylum for Domestic Violence Survivors | August 10, 2020

Federal Court Upholds Asylum for Domestic Violence Survivors | Apr 27, 2020

Select Media Coverage

"Asylum Seekers, Advocates Urge Garland to End Trump’s Cruel Policies Towards Survivors," Brianna Krong and Lourdes Martinez, Ms., May 18, 2021

"One quick asylum fix: How Garland can help domestic violence survivors," Karen Musalo and Steve Legomsky, The Hill, May 9, 2021

"Domestic Abuse Survivors Fear Deportation Under Trump Policy Biden Has Yet To Reverse," Joel Rose, NPR, April 30, 2021

"Immigrant Advocates Urge Biden Administration to End Trump Restrictions on Asylum for Domestic Violence Victims," Farida Jhabvala Romero, KQED, April 28, 2021

"Attorneys urge AG Merrick Garland to dump Trump's asylum restrictions," Suzanne Gamboa, NBC News, April 26, 2021

"As Trump Doubles Down, Courts Side with Immigrant Women Seeking Asylum," Blaine Bookey and Brianna Krong, Ms., August 21, 2020

“Trump administration claims victory in rulings on asylum restrictions, but courts differ,” Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, August 9, 2020

“Federal Court Reaffirms U.S. As Safe Haven for Domestic Violence Survivors,” Blaine Bookey, Ms., May 1, 2020