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New Immigration Case May Open the Door to Asylum for Battered Spouses

The Board of Immigration Appeals delivered a published decision recently finding that certain female victims of domestic violence may be eligible for asylum in the United States. The Board’s decision in Matter of A-R-C-G, 26 I&N Dec. 388 (BIA 2014) held that “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship,” constitute a legally cognizable “particular social group,” (PSG) and under the right circumstances, could be considered refugees and granted asylum in the United States.

Early this year, the Board clarified its position on what constitutes a PSG in two published decisions. In Matter of W-G-R- and Matter of M-E-V-G-, The Board held that an applicant seeking asylum based on his or her membership in a “particular social group” must establish that the group is (1) composed of members who share a common immutable characteristic, (2) defined with particularity, and (3) socially distinct within the society in question.

For the first time under this new PSG analysis, the Board has found that a victim of domestic violence, who because of religious, social or cultural norms, find it difficult to end a marital relationship, can seek protection in the United States in the form of asylum. The Board did not create a bright-line rule that all married women in Guatemala who were the victims of domestic violence are eligible for asylum. The Board also did not say that married women in other countries could not qualify for asylum.

Asylum is a form of immigration relief that a non-citizen can seek in the United States, whether they are in removal proceedings already or not, and whether they are in a valid immigration status or not. Asylum can be granted to non-citizens who have suffered past persecution (some form of harm or threats of harm) or fear future persecution in their home country on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a PSG or political opinion.

However, it is important to remember that you only have one year after you enter the United States to apply for asylum, or you may be denied asylum because you filed late. There are numerous exceptions to this time limit, so if you were harmed, or fear future harm in your country for any reason, do not give up hope just because you entered the U.S. more than a year ago. Consult with an experienced immigration attorney right away. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will become for an attorney to help you win your case.

If you suffered domestic abuse or threats of abuse in your home country, or fear going back because of domestic abuse, call the experienced immigration attorneys at Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon today. We can help you with your asylum case. Do not delay, the longer you wait, the harder it will be to help you win your case and stay in the U.S. legally.