Great News

As you may recall, the Bush administration was (with one notable exception) extremely hostile to female asylum-seekers who sought asylum on the basis of forced marriage, genital mutilation, domestic violence, and/or sexual assault. Just another one of many shames of that eight-year blight on this nation, for which the current administration is now seeking to atone [trigger warning for case details; emphasis mine]:
The Obama administration has opened the way for foreign women who are victims of severe domestic beatings and sexual abuse to receive asylum in the United States. The action reverses a Bush administration stance on an issue at the center of a protracted and passionate legal battle over the possibilities for battered women to become refugees.

...The administration laid out its position in an immigration appeals court filing in the case of a woman from Mexico who requested asylum, saying she feared she would be murdered by a common law husband there. According to court documents filed in San Francisco, the man repeatedly raped her at gunpoint, held her captive, stole from her and at one point attempted to burn her alive when he learned she was pregnant.

The government submitted its legal brief in April, but the woman only recently gave her consent for the confidential case documents to be disclosed to The New York Times. The government has marked a clear, although narrow, pathway for battered women seeking asylum, lawyers said, after thirteen years of tangled court arguments, including resistance from the Bush administration to recognize any of those claims.

Moving cautiously, the government did not immediately recommend asylum for the Mexican woman, who is identified in the court papers only by her initials as L.R. But the Department of Homeland Security, in the unusual submission written by senior government lawyers, concluded in plain terms that "it is possible" that the Mexican woman "and other applicants who have experienced domestic violence could qualify for asylum."

As recently as last year, Bush administration lawyers had argued in the same case that battered women could not meet the strict standards of American asylum law.

"This really opens the door to the protection of women who have suffered these kinds of violations," said Karen Musalo, a professor who is director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. Ms. Musalo has represented other battered women seeking asylum and recently took up the case of L.R.

Even still, I have to bitterly laugh at the Obama administration's ground rules for battered asylum-seekers: "In addition to meeting the existing strict conditions for being granted asylum, abused women need to show a judge that women are viewed as subordinate by their abuser, according to a court filing by the administration, and must also show that domestic abuse is widely tolerated in their country." If the abuse itself isn't evidence that the asylum-seekers are "viewed as subordinate by their abusers," what proof, one wonders, will be sufficient? And in what country on this planet is domestic abuse not widely tolerated? That's a stipulation made by Americans who are fooling themselves.

Nonetheless, this is a step in the right direction, a significant departure from the former resident at 1600, who spoke of women's freedom even as he turned them away from our shores and denied their chance at something much closer to free.

[H/T to Shaker Rachel.]

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