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Domestic violence may be grounds for seeking asylum

A landmark decision by the Justice Department's Board of Immigration Appeals could have an effect on individuals seeking asylum in South Carolina. For the first time, the board ruled that a woman fleeing domestic violence could qualify for asylum as a member of a particular social group. In this case, that social group is considered to be married women who cannot leave their relationships.

Asylum is offered to individuals who can prove they will be persecuted for their political opinion, religion, race, membership in a social group or national origin if they are returned to their home country. While this case must now go before an immigration board for a final ruling, it establishes grounds for other women to seek asylum under similar circumstances.

The process of getting asylum approved can take several years due to a backlog in the courts, and in that time, individuals are allowed to legally work in the country. As a result, a pending case can be beneficial even if ultimately proving a need for asylum is difficult. The individual must also demonstrate that the government in their home country will not prevent the threat or is actually involved in the persecution. In this case, the woman claims that she went to the police, but they would not help her.

As a result, an individual who is fleeing domestic violence may now be able to apply for asylum if they have been unable to get protection from the authorities in their home country. This could have particular repercussions for a number of women and children from Central America who have crossed the border since October 2013. While some of those individuals are fleeing gang and criminal violence, some might also be trying to escape domestic violence.

Source: WISTV, "US to consider spousal abuse in immigration claims", Alicia A. Caldwell, August 27, 2014

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