Sexual Slavery & Human Trafficking

Some courts have been resistant to asylum claims based on sexual slavery, forced prostitution, and human trafficking under the belief that they reflect instances of criminal activity inflicted for “random” or “personal” reasons and not for reasons that are connected to one of the five bases for asylum (such as harm related to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group).  CGRS has argued that these human rights violations are often gender-based and the result of government failures to protect women and girls, and that their victims should be eligible for asylum.

  • Cece v. Holder (2013):  Ms. Cece fled to the United States from her country in fear of being trafficked for sexual exploitation after a leader of a gang in Albania known for forcing young woman into prostitution had stalked and harassed her and the police took no action in response to her requests for protection.  The en banc Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted Ms. Cece's petition for review, holding that gender may define a particular social group and recognizing that women fleeing sex trafficking may be eligible for asylum based on social group membership.
  • Gjura v. Holder (2012): Ms. Gjura fled Albania after her sister was murdered and she was targeted by traffickers. The Immigration Judge granted Ms. Gjura asylum finding that she had a well-founded fear of persecution on account of her membership in a social group defined as “young, unmarried Albanian women.”  The Board of Immigration Appeals reversed the judge’s decision and denied asylum. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the denial, but after accepting an amicus from CGRS, withdrew its negative published opinion on the social group issue, basing its denial on other grounds. 
  • Matter of A-M-: A teenage girl from Albania, who was trafficked for sexual exploitation, was initially denied asylum by an Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals. CGRS submitted an amicus brief to the Board. Ultimately, A-M- was granted protection.
  • Matter of M-J- (2001): The BIA granted asylum to a young woman from China fleeing forced prostitution. CGRS provided legal advice and assistance to counsel for Ms. M-J-.
  • Matter of O (2002): A Russian woman living in a former Soviet Republic who had fled to the United States to escape conditions of sexual slavery was granted asylum in 2002 by the BIA after initially being denied. CGRS provided legal advice and assistance to Ms. O’s counsel, helped develop expert testimony in support of the claim, and worked with Amnesty International to draft an urgent action.

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