By Qudsia Raja, National Domestic Violence Hotline Policy Director
Yesterday was an exceptionally heavy day for advocates working to protect the rights of immigrant survivors of domestic violence. As policy director for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, I am acutely aware of the climate in our nation’s capital when it comes to government protections for women and children who are survivors of domestic abuse. It is my job to ensure these protections continue through sound, thoughtful policy and that government funding of our direct support services continues. Likewise, in Austin, Texas, home to our national call center, our advocates are busy answering chats, texts, and calls from an average 1,600 people each day reaching out for support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Like me, they are keenly aware of the trauma experienced by the one in four women and one in seven men who will be victims of severe physical violence in their lifetimes. It’s the advocates’ job to offer compassionate support and critical services to anyone affected by emotional, sexual, financial, and physical abuse. Thanks to bi-partisan legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA), this advocacy has continued for decades and more than four million people, including tens of thousands of immigrants, have received help through The Hotline.
In a closely watched case, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed the ruling of an immigration court in the Matter of A-B- that allowed a Salvadoran woman to seek asylum in the U.S. and escape her physically abusive husband. The decision yesterday by the Attorney General outlines that individuals cannot seek asylum in the U.S. solely based on the grounds of domestic violence claims, particularly where the perpetrator is a non-government actor. This decision reverses decades of progress made to ensure that immigrant survivors and their children are able to seek refuge and safety, and takes us back to an era where domestic violence was dismissed as a “private matter” between two people, not warranting governmental intervention. Here at The Hotline, we know this decision is going to have a devastating impact on immigrant survivors of violence. Without access to critical protections such as asylum for domestic violence victims fleeing partners in another country, this decision threatens the lives of thousands of survivors and their children, including the hundreds of currently pending cases.
Between 2016 and 2017, The Hotline saw a 13.5% increase in contacts from immigrant domestic violence survivors, as well as their family and friends, to seek crisis counseling, support, safety planning options, and referrals. Many survivors indicated that they did not want to seek protection orders or access criminal justice options for fear of detention or deportation. This is consistent with a national trend, where immigrant survivors are reaching out for help but not wanting to seek legal protections they’re entitled to for fear of being deported and separated from their children.
Today, I ask you to reach out to your Members of Congress and urge them to continue to work in a bipartisan manner to implement humane immigration policies that take into account the needs of immigrant survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Without access to critical protections such as asylum for these victims, women and children will be returned to violent homes and some will die. Now is the time to speak up for them, before it’s too late.
TAKE ACTION: Demand that Congress Reverse this Decision in the Matter of A-B and Provide Critical Protections for Immigrant Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence
- To find your Member of Congress, click here. Urge them to take action today and reject AG Sessions’ decision.
- Sign a Change.org petition by the Tahirih Justice Center that demands a reversal of the decision.
- Help uplift and amplify the detrimental impact of this decision by posting on social media and using the following hashtags: #ProtectSurvivors #ImmigrantWomenToo
The National Domestic Violence Hotline sits on the National Taskforce to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF) Steering Committee, a membership that includes national organizations whose primary purpose is to end domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
Statement of the National Taskforce to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Denouncing the Attorney General’s Decision in Matter of A-B
The Steering Committee of the National Taskforce to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF), comprised of national leadership organizations advocating on behalf of sexual and domestic violence victims and women’s rights, represents hundreds of programs, service providers and community organizations across the country dedicated to making sure that all survivors of violence receive the protections and services they need and deserve. We are alarmed by the significant adverse impact of the June 11, 2018 Attorney General’s deeply disappointing decision in Matter of A-B-.
The A.G.’s decision strikes at the heart of longstanding protections for domestic violence survivors and others who look to the United States for protection and refuge, taking us back to an era when domestic violence was considered a “private” matter; not meriting government intervention. This decision undermines decades of progress toward human rights policies that recognize the unique vulnerabilities of women and children who have experienced the trauma of violence and need secure immigration status to access safety. By declaring that the lack of state intervention in domestic violence in other countries cannot be the sole basis for asylum in the U.S., the Attorney General is instituting a policy that will block thousands of people from obtaining refuge in the United States, condemning thousands of domestic violence victims to deportation to dangerous situations where they could very well lose their lives.
Already, this Administration’s policies have served to send the message to immigrant survivors of domestic violence that they are undeserving of safety and justice, making them more vulnerable to threats from abusers and more fearful that they will be separated from their children and communities. In this climate, the NTF calls on our nation’s policymakers to work together to uphold their commitment to all survivors – including through the protections of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) – and to forge a bipartisan, humane national immigration policy.
Congress should reject the Attorney General’s decision in Matter of A-B-., and work in a bipartisan manner to exercise greater oversight of the Administration’s immigration policies that harm domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. As part of these efforts, Congress must preserve and defend provisions in our asylum laws that enable immigrant victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to seek life-saving refuge and protection when their countries’ officials fail to protect them from targeted violence. In addition, Congress must continue to work in a bipartisan manner to seek a more just and humane immigration system that protects survivors and strengthens families, communities, and the nation.
For more information, please contact Archi Pyati, Tahirih Justice Center, at [email protected], Grace Huang, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence at [email protected], or Rosie Hidalgo, National [email protected] Network: Casa de Esperanza, at [email protected]