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US Door Opens Wider on Asylum for Battered Women



July 17, 2009

Albany, NY - The Obama administration has reversed a Bush-era position on battered women seeking asylum in the U.S., opening the way for sexual and domestic abuse victims worldwide to seek shelter here. Filings in a recent court case show the Obama administration will offer less resistance on the path toward receiving asylum in America, in contrast to the past 13 years when was it nearly impossible.

The new policy is hailed by Luis Valenzuela of the Long Island Immigration Alliance, who calls it a great humanitarian effort.

"It's a problem that is seen across the world, across class, across race and even across gender. Certainly, it's a welcome decision."

Critics fear waves of women seeking asylum on flimsy grounds. But, proponents say the women will still have to meet strict guidelines under the government's new stance. They will need to show they are treated as little better than property, that domestic abuse is widely tolerated in their country, that they couldn't find protection from institutions or by moving within their own country. Valenzuela says that will deter deception.

"Each case is judged on its merits and there has to be almost proof beyond reasonable doubt that the assertions are true."

While opening the doors for asylum-seeking women is a good thing, Valenzuela says, by no means is America a country free of its own domestic abuse problems.

"Here in the United States, we have a terrible problem with domestic violence. We have women who are not only abused, but many who lose their lives."

The policy change became apparent in a U.S. Department of Justice filing in an asylum case in San Francisco. The new policy does not apply to victims of genital mutilation.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY
 

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