BIA Sets Precedent for Domestic Violence Based Asylum

After nearly 20 years of countless debates and the evaluations of four attorney general’s, the Board of Immigration (BIA) has finally addressed the issue whether domestic violence can, in some instances, form the basis for a claim of asylum or withholding of removal.

In the case of Matter of A-R-C-G- et al, Respondents, Aminta Cifuentes, the lead respondent was a victim of domestic violence while living in her native country of Guatemala.  Subsequent to her arrival, without inspection, on December 25, 2005, her petition for asylum and withholding of removal was denied by a U.S. Immigration Judge.  On appeal from that decision, the BIA held that the respondent was a member of a particular social group composed of “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship.”  In order to meet strict asylum requirements members of this group must establish that the Government was unwilling or unable to protect them. Aminta Cifuentes succeeded in meeting this burden of proof.

Cifuentes fled Guatemala with her three minor children after enduring years of mistreatment at the hands of her husband.  She was the victim of physical beatings on a weekly basis, a broken nose, and rape.  Also, her breasts were burned after being doused with paint thinner by her husband. Several attempts were made to obtain police protection.  Authorities refused to intervene in her marital relationship.  On one such occasion, she summoned the police after her husband hit her in the head.  Rather than being arrested, her husband was allowed to remain in the home.  He took that opportunity to threaten her with death the next time she called the police on him.

The BIA’s decision in this case has set a precedent that may further help other women from Central America.  Regardless if their entry into the U.S. was legal or illegal, domestic violence based asylum now requires proof that they too were unable to leave their relationship and suffered persecution or has a well-founded fear of future persecution in their home country.

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