**Trigger warning for description of domestic violence**
L.R., a 43 year old Mexican woman, was repeatedly abused by her common-law husband. This abuse included repeated rapes at point of guns and machetes and an attempt to burn her in her bed. Knowing Mexican authorities would not help her and there was no place where she could not be found by her abuser in Mexico, L.R. filed for asylum in 2005. On August 4th, an immigration judge approved asylum for L.R. as well as her two sons, now 22 and 20 years old, after a favorable recommendation by Department of Homeland Security officials.
Before this case, domestic abuse survivors seeking asylum were often dismissed by immigration judges. This was partly because until recently, the Department of Homeland Security did not have clear required criteria for domestic violence survivors seeking asylum. Unfortunately, with this new criteria “hurdles remain high for battered women” seeking asylum. However, this case at least clarifies what those hurdles are and makes it a little easier for people like L.R. and her sons to receive asylum.
If not granted asylum, L.R. would have faced insurmountable obstacles to be protected from her abuser in her homeland of Mexico. When she asked Mexican courts to protect her, a judge only “offered to help her if she would have sex with him.” If she were to continue working as a schoolteacher in Mexico, she would have to post her current address online in a public registry that her abuser could easily access. The Mexican police would also likely been of little help given the “‘enormous social and cultural tolerance of this abuse, resulting in the virtual complicity of authorities who should prevent and punish these violent acts.’”
While it is unfortunate that it still remains difficult for domestic abuse survivors to be granted asylum in the U.S., L.R.’s case at least helps to specify what the criteria is and shows it is possible to be given asylum. To learn more about the state of violence against women on a national and international scale, visit Amnesty International’s “Stop Violence Against Women Campaign” page.