Matter of A-B- Amicus Project

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. 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.

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?

Like Ms. A.B. from El Salvador and Ms. Jacelys Miguelina De Pena-Paniagua from the Dominican Republic, the 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 cgrs-abtracking@uchastings.edu.

How can you help?

Need more information?

Contact Brianna Krong, Communications and Advocacy Coordinator, at krongbrianna@uchastings.edu.

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 cgrs-abtracking@uchastings.edu.  

Press Releases

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

"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