WASHINGTON – One of the cruelest initiatives yet proposed by the Trump Administration threatens to send victims of violence applying for asylum in the U.S. back home to face even more violence or perhaps death. The National Organization for Women (NOW) and our allies in the domestic violence and sexual assault prevention communities have worked for over 20 years to establish a safe, legal path for survivors of violence to reach the U.S. Border safely under provisions in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).
NOW submitted a formal comment on July 15th, objecting to adoption of this harmful rule. Since the passage of VAWA in 1994, Congress has acknowledged that gender-based violence remains the most widespread form of violence in the world. Also, that domestic violence is often exacerbated in marriages where one spouse is not a citizen and their legal status depends on the marriage to the abuser. VAWA is so important because it also allows a battered undocumented woman to petition for lawful status on her own, eliminating the need for the cooperation of a violent spouse.
The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s proposed rule change would limit protections for asylum seekers and essentially eliminate the previously established recognition of “gender-based asylum.” It would cut off access to asylum for women fleeing rape, severe domestic violence, human trafficking, and other forms of gender-based violence. This rule would shortcut the screening process such that most asylum-seeking survivors would never get a day in court and instead be deported without a hearing and through a streamlined removal process.
In an effort that promises to further undermine U.S. standing as a beacon for democracy, the proposed rule narrows sharply the definition of “political persecution,” and thus denies protections to advocates whose efforts to obtain equal and often basic human rights in their home counties have made them a target of violence.
If this rule change becomes reality, a large group of immigrant women who have been deemed survivors of domestic violence and have been vetted by immigration authorities specifically trained in this issue, will lose access to police protection and other community resources, restraining order protections, child custody determinations, and child support. This will also discourage these women from accessing justice and safety, forcing them to remain with abusive spouses and raise their children around violence.
With the #MeToo movement, people around the world have been inspired to uplift survivors in their community. If this new rule passes, we will be leaving these asylum-seeking women in the shadows. NOW stands with our allies in voicing our objection to yet another inhumane policy from the Trump Administration.