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Some Light in the Darkness: Hope after Matter of A-B- Domestic Violence Asylum Claim Granted

In the summer of 2018, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a decision in Matter of A-B- overruling a pivotal domestic violence based asylum case, Matter of A-R-C-G-. The holding in Matter of A-R-C-G- allowed women to seek asylum in the United States by establishing that they had been the victim of domestic violence, that they were unable to leave the relationship, and that their government cannot protect them. In overruling that case, the AG made it extremely difficult for victims of domestic violence to receive protection in the United States despite the fact that in some countries, merely being a woman puts someone in extreme danger with no protection from the government. The result of A-B- has been tragic as many women have been forced back to their country where they will likely be harmed or even killed by their abusers.

Recently, "M" came to the office of Youman, Madeo & Fasano terrified that she would be one of those women because if she is forced to return to her native country of Mexico, her abusive ex-husband will kill her. M suffered a life of abuse and horrible violence. When she was only 14 years old, M was raped by her brother-in-law. When that was reported to the police, the officers just laughed at her. Before coming to the United States, she was abused by an ex-partner, and again, the police did nothing to protect her. Then while in this country, she married a man who also physically, sexually, and verbally abused her; however, the police in the United States took steps to protect her. Eventually he was deported to Mexico.

Yet she was still in danger because she too could have been deported to Mexico where he was waiting to take revenge on her for divorcing him and for working with the police in the United States. The divorce did not matter to him - he was still going to rape and beat her because he believed she would always be his. He knew where family in Mexico lived, and he was merely waiting for her to return. Her only chance was to hope for asylum here in the United States, yet that proved challenging because of Matter of A-B-. When she came to us, we had a little less than two weeks to prepare for her asylum interview, and Mr. Fasano took her case pro bono.

We worked tirelessly for a week and a half to gather evidence and to prepare M's detailed Affidavit in which she explained all the abuse she has suffered and why she is terrified that she will be killed if she returns to Mexico. In addition, we had to counter Matter of A-B-, and thus, the associate on the case wrote a memorandum of law explaining why the AG's decision in A-B- did not preclude M's application for asylum.

The first step in doing that was to explain that the AG's decision was fundamentally flawed, legally erroneous, and expressly contrary to decades of asylum jurisprudence. Asylum applicants must meet several elements in order to receive protection here in this country. They must establish that they either have been harmed or will be harmed on account of a protected ground such as membership in a particular social group. They must also establish that if the harm feared is inflicted by private actors, that the government is either unable or unwilling to control the perpetrator. The AG's decision attacked all those elements yet did so in a legally incorrect manner; thus, we first pointed out each fallacy. The second step was to apply decades of asylum law to M's case and argue why under the law, she is still eligible for asylum even though we as advocates can no longer rely on Matter of A-R-C-G-.

We submitted evidence from M corroborating the abuse she suffered, and we submitted country condition evidence demonstrating that Mexico is a patriarchal society; thus, domestic violence occurs at alarmingly high rates, yet victims rarely receive any protection from the government because even police officers believe that women are subordinate to men and that domestic violence is therefore permissible. That objective evidence corroborated what M already suffered in Mexico. Although M was also abused here in the United States, her abuser carried that machismo attitude to this country.  

We then fully prepared M for the asylum interview as if we were preparing for court. That is, we made sure she understood the types of questions she would be asked and why those questions would be asked. We helped her understand the legally significant facts that the asylum officer needed to know. In addition, we worked with her on the trauma aspect because we knew that the psychological suffering would impact her ability to relay relevant yet difficult details to the asylum officer.

All of the hard work paid off because M pushed through the asylum interview and answered questions in detail about why she is afraid to return to Mexico. Ms. Rook was able to attend the interview as M's attorney and was allowed to give a closing statement making the necessary legal arguments in support of M's application for asylum. It all came together, and today, we were able to tell M that she has been granted asylum in the United States.

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