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Domestic violence may now be grounds for asylum

Georgia residents interested in immigration issues may be interested in the story of one woman who has succeeded in an appeal to the government regarding asylum in the U.S. This appeal may have established a new protected class under U.S. asylum policy.

Reports indicate that over 62,000 people have been apprehended at the border in the past several months as they traveled from Central America into the United States. Some of these people may be able to avoid deportation by claiming asylum, but with a backlog of nearly 400,000 deportation cases, it may take time. In this particular decision, a Guatemalan woman claimed that she was deserving of asylum due to domestic violence that she faced in her home country.

After an initial denial of asylum, the woman appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals of the U.S. Department of Justice. In a landmark ruling, the board agreed that her status as married victim of domestic violence who could not leave her relationship met one of the criteria for asylum. This class of people joins others, such as those persecuted for their politics, religion or nationality in their home countries. The ruling only affects women from Guatemala, a country where as many as one-fourth of women experience domestic violence. Some believe, however, that this could lead to similar claims from women of other nationalities.

The case will now be referred back to an immigration judge for a final ruling. While the Justice Department's ruling is not a guarantee that the woman will be granted asylum, her attorney believes that she will ultimately be successful. As immigration reform continues to be a volatile subject, it will be interesting to see if this case prompts further efforts to pass new legislation.

Source: WISTV, "US to consider spousal abuse in immigration claims", Alicia A. Caldwell, August 27, 2014

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