Though domestic violence is a serious problem in countries all over the world, not all governments offer help and assistance to survivors of domestic violence. And even in countries where survivors can seek help, LGBTQ survivors of domestic violence may not be able to come forward due to fear of persecution and discrimination by governments that do not recognize—or actively disparage—their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Yesterday, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), after a long-fought battle by activists, has finally recognized that domestic violence is grounds for asylum, because married women who are fleeing abusive husbands in countries where they are not given protections can be a part of a “particular social group” (one of the grounds on which asylum is granted is persecution of a particular social group). While this does not immediately extend protections to all LGBTQ people, it can extend protections to some, and it is certainly an important decision for survivors of domestic violence around the world in countries that refuse to provide them with assistance. It also opens the door for LGBTQ survivors of domestic violence to bring their own cases, using this case as precedent and expanding its application.
NCLR applauds this decision by the BIA. Throughout the past 20 years our Immigration Project has helped hundreds of LGBTQ immigrants all of whom have escaped physical, verbal and/or sexual abuse in their home countries. Many of our clients have come to us after experiencing years of abuse. For these individuals, the thought of entering the United States and distancing themselves from their abuser(s) is their only chance for survival and the only way that they can begin to heal. Our hope is that this new precedent will expedite the route to safety for survivors.