CGRS educates decision makers to promote law and public policy that recognize asylum claims of those fleeing persecution, with a special focus on women, children, and LGBT refugees. Our goal is to create a U.S. refugee regime that responds to the needs of these vulnerable groups and aligns with international norms. We engage in administrative advocacy with the goal to advance agency policies and procedures. We also educate members of Congress and their staff, the legal community, immigrant and refugee communities, and the general public about legislation and other policy proposals and their implications. In addition, CGRS launches national advocacy campaigns to support positive outcomes in key cases.
Raids on Central American Women and Children: CGRS condemns the Obama Administration’s planned 30-day surge of arrests and deportations of hundreds of Central American women and children in May and June of 2016. Many of these women and children have come to the United States to escape persecution, including gender-based and sexual violence by gangs or even their own family members. The military style raids will likely re-traumatize those who have come to the United States seeking refuge from abuse they have experienced in their home countries. By deporting families back to unstable and violent environments, the U.S. government may be sending some women and children to the violence they fled or, at worst, their deaths. Additionally, many of the women and children targeted in these raids have never had access to legal counsel who could have helped them navigate the complex U.S. immigration system and obtain asylum or other forms of relief that would allow them to stay. People who come to the United States fleeing violence deserve a fair and humane chance at having their claims heard. Before these women and children are deported, they must be given a chance to access legal counsel and present their claims for asylum and other humanitarian protections.
Counsel for Unaccompanied Children: CGRS supports the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act, a bill introduced in 2016 that would provide government funded counsel and other due process protections for immigrant children in immigration court proceedings. Along with twenty other key California organizations, CGRS sent a letter to Senator Feinstein—who has been a champion for children’s rights, and hails from California, one of the largest receiving states of immigrant children—urging her support for the bill. Without counsel, children are much more likely to face deportation to the same conditions of violence they fled. Press Release_Fair Day in Court for Kids.pdf Sign On Letter_Fair Day in Court Act California.pdf
Raids on Refugee Children and Families: CGRS condemns the Obama Administration’s stepped up enforcement efforts in early 2016 targeting Central American families for deportation. Many of these women and children have fled unimaginable horrors, including sexual and gender-based violence that have left them traumatized. Many do not have access to counsel to help them navigate our labyrinthine, and re-traumatizing, immigration procedures. Seeking asylum in the U.S. is not “illegal,” as Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson asserted in his brazenly misguided statement. People fleeing persecution have the right to request protection and should be afforded a humane and fair process to have their claims heard. Our obligations under international and domestic law demand nothing less. Take action now to stop raids on families by calling the White House. Action Alert to Stop Raids.pdf
Detention of Mothers and Children: Following the increase of migrant women and children fleeing violence in Central America, in 2014, the Obama Administration reinstituted the practice of family detention, which had been discredited and abandoned as inhumane and expensive. Despite a growing call by advocates, members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, academics and others to shut down the harmful practice once again, the Administration has doubled down and expanded the practice through opening privately-run detention centers—the nation’s largest—in Texas. CGRS is part of a mounting coalition (read our statement here) imploring the Administration to stop detaining mothers and their children, many of whom have fled brutal domestic violence, rape and other persecution, only to be retraumatized by conditions of detention and denied due process to fully pursue their claims for asylum in immigration court. The practice violates our core legal obligations and morals as a nation and must be stopped. We will continue to support lawyers working on the ground representing these refugee women and children in gaining protection in the U.S. by providing legal assistance, training, and litigation support materials.
CGRS applauds the July 24, 2015 order from U.S. District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee in favor of releasing women and children, many of whom are asylum seekers, from immigration detention. Read our statement here. In its response to the District Court ruling, the administration continues to advocate for a flawed and illegal policy of locking up refugee women and children who have fled violence and persecution in their home countries. CGRS denounces the Obama administration's response in a statement available here.
On August 21, 2015, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee’s August 21, ruled on the Administration’s response and required that it release refugee children and their mothers from family detention centers. CGRS calls on the Administration to comply immediately with the order and to release refugee families as quickly as possible. Read our full statement here.
In 2015, CGRS Founder and Director Karen Musalo was appointed to serve on the Department of Homeland Security’s advisory committee on family detention, tasked with advising DHS on best practices at family detention centers. Karen joined fellow experts in preparing a comprehensive report, released in October 2016, which calls on DHS to immediately discontinue the general use of family detention, finding that detention is never in the best interests of mothers and children.
Asylum and Withholding Regulations: In 2000, the Department of Justice proposed asylum regulations that were generally positive for gender claims and recognized domestic violence as a basis for asylum. These proposed regulations have never been finalized. The absence of regulations has caused confusion and inconsistency, with some adjudicators refusing to grant asylum in cases of gender-based harm. CGRS has called on the government to issue regulations, and has advocated for regulations that protect women, children, and LGBT asylum seekers.
Consistency in Executive Branch Position in Domestic Violence Cases: In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security issued a brief in Matter of L-R- that set out the agency’s position that domestic violence may be a basis for asylum. And, in August 2014, the Board of Immigration Appeals issued the first ever precedential decision recognizing domestic violence as a basis for asylum in Matter of A-R-C-G-. While CGRS applauds these developments, we have since seen inconsistent adjudication of domestic violence asylum cases, with disparate interpretations of A-R-C-G-, and inconsistent positions taken by DHS attorneys. We have responded to requests for information from the House Judiciary Committee regarding this issue, and we continue to monitor immigration court adjudication as well as DHS’s approach to domestic violence cases.
Refugee Protection Act(s) of 2010 and 2011: CGRS served as an expert consultant to Congressional offices involved in both the Senate and House versions of this proposed legislation. The Act provides vital and necessary refugee law reform, including eliminating the arbitrary one-year filing deadline for asylum. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-NH) acknowledged CGRS in his official statement introducing the Act. CGRS comments on the House’s counterpart to this bill prevented restrictive language that would have compromised refugee women’s rights. After receiving CGRS input, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) chose CGRS to be one of a select group of organizations to review the entire bill as it was finalized. CGRS will continue to provide education and resources to members of Congress working to advance this critical legislation.
Unaccompanied Immigrant Children: Migrant children traveling alone are among the most vulnerable populations of refugees, and they have been coming to the United States in skyrocketing numbers. They are fleeing physical and sexual abuse, trafficking, forced military or gang recruitment, and other forms of persecution or abandonment. With funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, CGRS researched and published two comprehensive studies on child migration. A Treacherous Journey, examines child migrants’ challenges of navigating the U.S. immigration system. Childhood and Migration in Central and North America: Causes, Policies, Practices, and Challenges is a comprehensive regional study of the root causes of children’s forced migration. CGRS submitted a statement with policy recommendations to a Senate committee hearing reviewing the U.S. government’s response to unaccompanied migrant children.
Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act: This 2008 law requires that the asylum cases of unaccompanied children be handled by asylum officers first rather than by immigration judges, in recognition that unaccompanied children are particularly vulnerable and need special protections. CGRS has engaged in administrative advocacy concerning the implementation of this law. In particular, we have provided recommendations for federal regulations that would ensure a child-centered approach to adjudication of children’s asylum claims. CGRS argues for a policy in which all child immigrants have their cases handled in a non-adversarial setting.
Help Haitian Adoptees Immediately Integrate Act of 2010: CGRS provided feedback to Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) regarding this enacted legislation that expanded protections for Haitian children adopted in the U.S. following the country’s devastating January 2010 earthquake.
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA): Through an online education campaign, CGRS educated the public about House of Representative provisions which would have rolled back critical protections for survivors of domestic violence seeking immigration relief.
International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA): CGRS has conducted online advocacy campaigns to raise awareness of IVAWA, which supports innovative programs to reduce violence against women globally, and makes ending violence against women a diplomatic priority for the U.S. CGRS continues to participate in the national coalition to end violence against women worldwide.