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Victims of domestic violence are eligible for asylum

Recently, the Board of Immigration Appeals held for the first time that women who are the victims of domestic violence are eligible for political asylum in the United States. Specifically, the Board officially recognized that women who have experienced domestic violence may be deemed a "member of a particular social group." The ruling was made in the precedent decision entitled Matter of A-R-C-G-.

Asylum may be granted to an individual regardless of the manner of entry into the United States, including illegal entry, if the individual meets the definition of a "refugee." A "refugee" is defined as a person who has been persecuted or has a well-founded fear of being persecuted "on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion." In Matter of A-R-C-G- the Board held definitively for the first time that women who are victims of domestic violence comprise a particular social group.

The recent positive law from the Board has meant good news for our clients. This week our Firm won asylum for a victim of domestic violence from Ecuador who had been the victim of physical, verbal and sexual abuse from the time she was 6 years old. This abuse was at the hands of her older brothers, her mother, her ex-partner, and a friend who turned out to be a drug smuggler. Our Associate, Christina Xenides, represented our client before the New York Immigration Court. Christina reported that our client, "gave great testimony and, aside from mixing up a few dates, it was all very credible. At the beginning of the hearing the [government lawyer] was putting up a bit of a fight [but] in the end he stated that in light of the BIA precedent in Matter of A-R-C-G-, he would be deferring to the Court." This meant that the government would not appeal the Judge's decision to grant the case. Immigration Judge Poczter reasoned that "even if [our client] hadn't met her burden for past persecution . . . [she] would have determined that she would be a candidate for humanitarian asylum." Christina believes this "is a great sign of the direction these cases are going!"

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