What Is Asylum?
The United Nations Convention Concerning the Status of Refugees, a treaty of which the United States is a signatory, lists five grounds for asylum: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, and membership in a particular social group. Individuals fleeing their home countries due to persecution may qualify for asylum under “membership in a particular social group” theory.
What Is the Application Process?
Instructions for filing a Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, can be found here. In most cases, asylum seekers need to apply for asylum within one year of arrival in the United States. The only exception to this policy is if the applicant demonstrates extraordinary circumstances for their delay or has experienced a change of circumstances that impacts their eligibility for asylum. The affirmative asylum process is available for people who are not facing removal proceedings (deportation), whereas the defensive asylum process is for people who are already in removal proceedings.
As of January 29, 2019, the Asylum Division of the USCIS stated that it would “give priority to the most recently filed affirmative asylum applications when scheduling asylum interviews,” instead of processing them in the order in which they were received. In other words, asylum cases that have been waiting in the queue for years are still waiting to be processed – and may never be.
Matter of A-R-C-G
Two important decisions are relevant to our discussion of winning asylum based on domestic violence. In August 2014, the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) issued Matter of A-R-C-G-, a decision that granted a Guatemalan woman asylum based on the severe abuse she suffered at the hands of her partner. In court, the woman described how her husband beat her on a weekly basis, burned her with paint thinner, and raped her. Although the woman contacted the Guatemalan police several times, they refused to intervene because they “would not interfere in a marital relationship.” The BIA found this woman qualified for asylum as a victim of domestic violence, holding that “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship” can constitute a cognizable particular social group that forms the basis of a claim for asylum or withholding of removal.
Matter of A-B
In June 2018, however, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued Matter of A-B, a decision overruling Matter of A-R-C-G. In short, Attorney General Sessions stated that because the woman in Matter of A-R-C-G- was the victim of a “private crime” at the hands of a “private actor,” instead of state-sponsored persecution, she was not eligible for asylum. Sessions clarified that an applicant who claims persecution based on a membership in a particular social group must prove that the group shares common characteristics which are socially distinct, that membership in the group is the main reason for the persecution, and that their home government is failing to protect them. This heightened the already heavy burden that applicants bear when seeking asylum in the United States.
Obtain Asylum with Yekrangi & Associates
The immigration attorneys at Yekrangi & Associates understand the challenges domestic violence victims face on a day-to-day basis. We are here to make you feel heard and to ensure your asylum case has the best possible resolution before the USCIS. Contact an immigration attorney at Yekrangi & Associates today.
Contact Yekrangi & Associates at (949) 478-4963 to arrange a no-risk, confidential case evaluation.