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Landmark ruling grants asylum to Guatemalan domestic abuse victim

For many years, the matter of domestic violence and asylum has been an issue. Politicians had balked at concrete reform, as had many immigration courts. That isn't to say that it was impossible for victims of domestic violence in their home country to earn asylum here in the United States. But it was a difficult request to have fulfilled.

Now a landmark ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) -- which overseas the immigration courts of the Justice Department and, thus, is the highest power in this regard -- may have provided the relief that many domestic violence victims have wanted to hear (in regards to their dreams of asylum) for a long time.

A woman from Guatemala was abused by her husband and he tried to prevent her from leaving. She applied for asylum and had to have her application taken all the way up the chain to the BIA, which finally granted her request for asylum. The ruling is important for the obvious reason that it acknowledges that domestic violence victims can achieve asylum,

But it is also important for two other reasons. First, the ruling acknowledged that the domestic violence and subsequent acts that this woman was subjected to qualified as "harm rising to the level of persecution." Second, the BIA said the "culture of machismo and family violence" in Guatemala means that a married woman who flees domestic violence is part of a "particular social group." This is a critical element to earning asylum. Being of a "particular social group" and being "persecuted" as such is inherent to the possibility of asylum.

Source: SF Gate, "Domestic violence ruled a reason for political asylum," Bob Egelko, Aug. 26, 2014

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