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Honduran Woman Fleeing Domestic Violence is Granted Asylum. By Roger Algase

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The following comment has been updated in order to include a reference to a recent BIA decision which significantly weakens, if not actually overruling, 30 years of restrictive BIA rulings on the question of what constitutes a "particular social group" for asylum purposes. This important decision, Matter of A-R-C-G- 26 I&N Dec. 388 (2014) which may have wide-reaching ramifications in asylum law, is cited in a footnote to the September 26 Immigration Daily article by Muzaffar Chisti and Faye Hipsman entitled: Unaccompanied Minors Crisis Has Receded From Headlines But Major Issues Remain.

My revised comment appears below:

The Huffington Post reports on September 25 that a Honduran woman and her two children who had been apprehended at the Mexican border and locked up in the notorious Artesia, New Mexico family detention center have been granted asylum by an immigration judge based on domestic violence by her husband. See: Honduran Woman Fleeing "Horrific Acts of Violence" Wins U.S. Asylum Together With Daughters.

According to the report, the woman, identified by her initials, D.M.L. had been repeatedly beaten and forced to have sex with her husband at gunpoint. Her husband had also threatened to kill her. The Huffpost writes:

"Although D.M.L. tried to leave once, her husband found her and their children. She decided that to get away from him, she would have to leave the country. She said she heard from family members that he is still looking for her.

D.M.L. said she never went to the police because she thought they wouldn't help and she was unaware of other resources. Whether she had access to aid from the government was important to her bid for asylum. The attorney needed to prove that D.M.L. was part of a particular social group facing persecution - in this case, married women unable to leave their husbands - and that the government was either unable or unwilling to help her."

The asylum grant was made possible by the efforts of lawyers from AILA's pro bono project, as well as by the help of a Honduran lawyer, Claudia Herrmannsdorfer, who spoke by phone from that country as an expert witness about the dangers of domestic violence faced by women in that country.

The DHS has 30 days to appeal the decision (to a BIA which, over the past 30 years, has taken a highly restrictive view of what constitutes a particular social group for asylum purposes, sometimes employing arguments which have been so twisted that they would have arguably made the ancient Greek sophists embarrassed to use them).

One can only hope that the Obama administration will do the right thing and decide not to appeal the case, which might result in giving D.M.L.'s husband more chances to rape or kill her.

Moreover, in the light of the recent (August 26, 2014) decision of the BIA in Matter of A-R-C-G - (26 I&N Dec. 388), which held that Guatemalan married women who are unable to leave the relationship constitute a particular social group for asylum purposes, there would not appear to be any valid reason for the DHS to appeal the IJ's ruling in the instant case, involving a Honduran woman who suffered almost identical abuse to that of the Guatemalan woman.

Huffpost's story concludes:

"In the courtroom in Arlington [Va.], [Laurel] Weinberg and [Karen] Bobadilla [D.M.L.'s lawyers] wiped away their tears after the decision, then quickly set about their first post-hearing task: Checking plans to get D.M.L. and her daughters out of the Artesia facility. Family detention is expanding rapidly, and immigration advocates are extremely concerned. They say women and children in asylum proceedings should be released if they aren't determined a flight risk, rather than locked up where they're denied free movement and have difficulty accessing legal counsel.

'We're proving one by one that these women don't belong in detention', Weinberg said."
Roger Algase is a New York Lawyer and graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 30 years, he has been helping employment and family based immigrants from many parts of the world overcome the obstacles of our convoluted immigration system and achieve their dream of living and working in America.

Roger's practice focuses on H-1B and O-1 work visas, and greens cards through labor certification (PERM), extraordinary ability (EB-1) and opposite or same sex marriage, as well as other immigration and citizenship cases. His email address is

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Updated 09-27-2014 at 02:06 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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  1. Retired INS's Avatar
    I dealt with hundreds of Central Americans as an INS enforcement officer. Women are definitely taken advantage of. If gay Mexicans can be a social group, then why not battered women. I spent 5 years working near the nation's capital and encountered many maids for Central American diplomats who abandoned their A-3 diplomatic status due to abuse by employers (top government officials). I would not appeal this decision.
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