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Asylum For Battered Women


The new Administration has recently changed immigration regulations to permit victims of domestic violence abroad to apply to obtain asylum in the U.S. The previous Administration had consistently denied such claims for violence and sexual abuse abroad, holding that this class of battered women could not be accepted because they did not meet the standard of U.S. asylum laws.

The asylum or refugee laws in the U.S. require proof of a well founded fear of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. The question at issue has been whether a woman who has suffered domestic violence abroad could be considered a member of a social group that would be eligible under the statute. The previous Administration had refused to include such abused women as members of a social group because the previous Administration had feared that it would open the floodgates of applications from all over the world. It consistently denied such asylum requests in spite of severe cases of brutality, rape, and flagrant abuse when local authorities afforded no protection.

Now the door has been opened slightly because where domestic violence is tolerated in many countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, abused women may be now considered to be a social group capable of qualifying for asylum here. Women can not find protection from the police in their villages, towns and cities or from local authorities and not even if they move to different parts of the country and as a result flee to the U.S. requesting asylum. These applicants may merit favorable consideration because the U.S. has traditionally been a haven for the oppressed

The new Administration has decided to consider these cases; however it will be necessary to demonstrate under these new regulations that the women could not find protection in their country, from rape, sexual assault and threats to be killed and that local police or local authorities dismissed their complaints as private matters. Fearing that such cases would overwhelm the Immigration Service, but still in accordance with our traditions of being a country that admits the oppressed or afflicted, the Immigration has now promised to carefully consider such cases, although insisting at the same time that proof of abuse is conclusive.

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