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Note - Abused and Confused: A Call for Asylum Law's Treatment of Domestic Violence to Catch Up With the Rest of the American Legal System


For years, domestic violence victims have fled their home countries, seeking asylum in the United States. The governments in the countries from which they ran were either unable or unwilling to control their abusers, leaving no choice but to seek refuge in America. But despite the ability of these women to prove they have been persecuted, they have still struggled to meet the threshold to qualify for asylum; it has remained uncertain whether victims of domestic abuse can fulfill the asylum requirement of demonstrating membership in a particular social group. In 2014, a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals gave hope that finally this burden on abused victims had been lightened. A fleeing woman would still have to prove her case of persecution and need for asylum, but she would be far more likely to fulfill the particular social group requirement. However, the acting Attorney General in 2018 stepped in to reverse the headway that had been made. Despite some recovery of hope for domestic violence asylum-seekers after a federal court decision, the situation remains precarious and uncertain. Abused women are waiting this very moment in the U.S., not knowing if they have a reasonable likelihood of succeeding in their asylum claims.

This Note argues that it is time for such uncertainty to be lifted, rather than waiting on the courts to do something further. The American legal system has already spoken, recognizing domestically abused women, and even abused immigrant women, as deserving special recognition and protection under the law. The policy of asylum law specifically must catch up to this standard, to recognize female victims of domestic violence as a particular social group.