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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum

Senators Try to Help Women Immigrants, But Ignore Women Asylum Seekers

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A proposed amendment
to the Senate Immigration Bill would reserve 30,000 green cards for
people in jobs traditionally held by women, such as nannies, home
health-care workers, and early childhood educators. The amendment is
sponsored by 12 of the 20 women in the U.S. Senate.

According to the Washington Post,*the
"lawmakers say pending immigration legislation is unfairly weighted
toward male workers because it rewards applicants who are better
educated and have more technical skills."


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While I agree that the immigration system has been skewed in favor of
male immigrants, I am not sure that this is the best way to help female
immigrants. Either we need high skilled workers in our economy or we
don't; either we need more nannies in our economy or we don't. Why not
set the number of visas for each category based on the needs of our
economy, and then reserve a certain percentage (say 50%) of visas for
women. Is this discriminatory? Yes, but Congress has the power to
discriminate when it comes to immigration law, and if the idea is to
help women and aid our economy, then this would be one way to achieve that goal.

If members of the Senate are inclined to help women immigrants, I
have another idea: Do something to rectify the male-centric asylum law.

Modern U.S. asylum law is based on a definition of "refugee" that was
codified in the 1950?s. The types of people seeking asylum in those
days were mostly men-political activists fleeing persecution, for
example-and this is what the law reflects. Gender violence was not part
of the equation, and the statute (INA*§ 101(a)(42))*did not (and does not) protect victims of domestic violence, female genital mutilation, forced marriage or sexual assault.*

The last legislative change to the definition of refugee occurred in
1996 when Congress made forced abortion and forced family planning a
basis for refugee status. My impression is that this amendment had more
to do with domestic politics (showing fealty to pro-life voters and
sticking it to the Chinese Communists) than to helping women, but
nevertheless, many women (and men) have benefited from the change.


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Other pro-women changes to the law in recent decades have been driven
by lawyer advocates. As a result of these changes, it is now possible
for victims of FGM and forced marriage to receive asylum. Victims of
domestic violence can also sometimes receive asylum.*But if Congress is
planning to amend the immigration law, and if the Senate wants to help
women, why not do something to codify and protect these advances?*

In addition, I would hope that the pro-women Senators would support
the elimination of the one-year asylum filing deadline (aliens who fail
to file for asylum within one year of arrival in the United States are
ineligible for asylum). A study from Temple University and Georgetown
(my two alma maters!) has shown that female asylum seekers are 50% more
likely to file for asylum three years or more after arrival. In an
excellent piece
on this point, Elisa Massimino of Human Rights First explains that one
reason for the delay is the shame many women feel when they have to
publicly describe their persecution. This jibes with my experience-many
of my female clients filed late because of shame, depression, ignorance
about the asylum system (and whether the persecution they face would
qualify them for protection), and what might be called "conditioned
subservience."

I agree with the Senators who believe that something needs to be done
to help female immigrants. Helping women who face persecution-and who
are currently falling through the cracks of our asylum system-would be
an excellent place to begin.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.

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Updated 07-16-2013 at 01:18 PM by JDzubow

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