Domestic Violence Recognized As Basis For Asylum For First Time

The Board of Immigration Appeals broke new ground last week as it recognized for the first time that the fear of domestic violence can serve as a basis for granting asylum to a foreign national seeking to stay in the United States.  The case of Aminta Cifuentes from Guatemala provided a compelling, yet tragic, basis for the Board of Immigration Appeals to find that a foreign national facing potential deportation could assert that her fear of resumed domestic violence warranted granting of asylum.

Ms. Cifuentes married a Guatemalan man when she was 17 years of age. After the birth of her first child, she claims, that he beat her on a weekly basis. At least on one occasion he broke her nose. In an effort to rape her, he doused her with paint thinner.  Eventually in 2005 she fled Guatemala with her children.

A strong part of her argument for asylum rested on her claim that the police in Guatemala refused to protect her.  When she was still living there, she would request their help but was routinely denied. They refused to arrest him. Furthermore, when she moved to another town to get away from her husband, he tracked her down and beat her.

In order to qualify for asylum a petitioner must establish that they have a “well-founded fear of persecution based on race, nationality, religion, political opinion or “membership in a particular social group.  For years Immigration Courts rejected the notion that battered women constituted such a “social group. Women’s rights activists advocated for protection for these women while opponents of such expansion of what can be classified as a “social group argued that, to include domestic violence victims, would open the floodgates to numerous asylum claims to the point of overwhelming the .immigration system.

This case illustrates how creative and persistent advocacy can cause appellate courts to reconsider long-standing precedent in favor or modifications of the reach of the law. It should not be overlooked, however, that the evidence presented as to the failure of the local law enforcement authorities to protect Ms. Cifuentes convinced the Board of Immigration Appeals that the problem for this petitioner lay not only in the violent conduct of her husband but her lack of protection and chance for recourse with the civil authorities in her home country.

The Shulman Law Group, LLC has successfully handled and effectuated many asylum cases.  The firm and its staff are well-versed in the nuances and underpinnings of claims of persecution involving individuals from many countries.  What sets our firm apart from other law offices is that we skillfully prepare comprehensive applications that include country reports, autobiographical statements, affidavits from friends, family and colleagues, psychological evaluations, and expert witness testimonials–strategies that predispose the applicant to a higher probability of an approval. Our firm maintains an up-to-date knowledge on the latest case law which affects the manner in which these cases are reviewed.