Media Statement from National Domestic Violence Hotline CEO Regarding U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Reversal of Immigration Court Ruling Granting Asylum Protection for Domestic Violence Survivors

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 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.  

It is our hope that stakeholders in the issue of domestic violence will speak up for immigrant survivors and call on Members of Congress 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.

Katie Ray-Jones

CEO, National Domestic Violence Hotline