"In recent years, the United States has been something of a beacon of hope for women fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries. In 2014, in a giant step forward, immigration courts explicitly determined that a person fleeing severe domestic violence may be granted asylum here if the violence rises to the level of persecution, if the government in the victim’s home country cannot or will not punish her abuser and if various other criteria are met. It’s a high bar but one that, sadly, women from many countries can clear. Now their last chance at protection may be under threat.
The case that established that certain victims of domestic violence are eligible for asylum was decided in a landmark ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals, the highest court in our immigration judicial system.
The survivor in the case, a Guatemalan named Aminta Cifuentes, was a victim of severe physical and sexual abuse. Ms. Cifuentes had endured 10 years of unrelenting violence at the hands of her spouse, who burned her with acid, beat and kicked her, broke her nose and punched her in the stomach with such force when she was eight months pregnant that the baby was born prematurely and with bruises. Her husband told her it would be pointless to call the police, because 'even the police and judges beat their wives.'
The ruling that granted her protection was a transformative one, not just for Ms. Cifuentes but for our country, too. At last, the United States stood firmly in opposition to violence against women and recognized that we can and should offer hope to survivors.
In March, however, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in an unusual move, suddenly and inexplicably stepped into this seemingly settled matter to assign a similar petition for asylum, known as the Matter of A-B-, to himself for reconsideration."