United States: Regression in treatment of gender-related persecution asylum claims

The Tahirih Justice Center

In 2002, a report titled Refugee Women at Risk called attention to several acute challenges facing women seeking asylum in the United States. Published by the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (now Human Rights First), Refugee Women at Risk illustrated how restrictive provisions in a 1996 immigration law, the "Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act", undermined the United States‘ commitment to offer protection to those fleeing persecution. Refugee Women at Risk highlighted how barriers that the 1996 law created for all asylum seekers interposed particularly significant and even insurmountable obstacles to women fleeing violence and oppression, principally through policies of expedited removal, detention of asylum seekers, and the one-year filing deadline for asylum claims.

In the seven years since the release of Refugee Women at Risk, numerous reports have decried the injustice inherent in the expedited removal process (let alone its expansion); the escalating use of prison-like detention and worsening detention conditions; and the harsh implications of the one-year filing deadline that deny some refugees any protection at all and grant others only temporary forms of protection. Reports have also critiqued other chronic shortcomings of the US asylum system, such as vast disparities in asylum adjudications rendered by overburdened Immigration Judges across the country.

Over this period, too, advocates have seen a disturbing stagnation and even some regression in the United States‘ treatment of asylum claims by women and girls seeking protection from gender-related persecution, such as female genital mutilation, forced marriage and severe domestic and sexual violence. While the United States first recognized gender-related persecution as a valid basis for asylum in 1995, draft regulations proposed in 2000 have yet to be revised and finalized. Without clear and binding guidance to resolve the novel and complex issues that asylum claims by women and girls have raised, today, in 2009, inconsistent and incoherent decision-making around the country is taking this field of law dangerously off-course, preventing women and girls fleeing persecution from receiving fair treatment and true justice in the United States.

The Tahirih Justice Center has been dedicated since its founding in 1997 to promoting justice for women and girls seeking asylum in the United States, through both client representation and public policy advocacy. While many of our clients have successfully secured a grant of asylum, others have been forced to accept lesser forms of protection, and all of Tahirih‘s asylum clients have faced substantial challenges in their quest for a new life in the United States free of violence and oppression.

You can read the full report by clicking on the url link below