‘Back to the Dark Ages’: Sessions’s asylum ruling reverses decades of women’s rights progress, critics say

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Aminta Cifuentes suffered weekly beatings at the hands of her husband. He broke her nose, burned her with paint thinner and raped her.

She called the police in her native Guatemala several times but was told they could not interfere in a domestic matter, according to a court ruling. When Cifuentes’s husband hit her in the head, leaving her bloody, police came to the home but refused to arrest him. He threatened to kill her if she called authorities again.

So in 2005, Cifuentes fled to the United States. “If I had stayed there, he would have killed me,” she told the Arizona Republic.

And after nearly a decade of waiting on an appeal, Cifuentes was granted asylum. The 2014 landmark decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals set the precedent that women fleeing domestic violence were eligible to apply for asylum. It established clarity in a long-running debate over whether asylum can be granted on the basis of violence perpetrated in the “private” sphere, according to Karen Musalo, director for the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law.

But on Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions overturned the precedent set in Cifuentes’s case, deciding that victims of domestic abuse and gang violence generally will not qualify for asylum under federal law. (Unlike the federal courts established under Article III of the Constitution, the immigration court system is part of the Justice Department.)

For critics, including former immigration judges, the unilateral decision undoes decades of carefully deliberated legal progress. For gender studies experts, such as Musalo, the move “basically throws us back to the Dark Ages, when we didn’t recognize that women’s rights were human rights.”

“If we say in the year 2018 that a woman has been beaten almost to death in a country that accepts that as almost the norm, and that we as a civilized society can deny her protection and send her to her death?” Musalo said. “I don’t see this as just an immigration issue … I see this as a women’s rights issue.”

Sessions’s decision reversed a 2016 ruling by the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals, the body responsible for interpreting U.S. asylum law, granting asylum to a Salvadoran woman who said she was abused by her husband. Musalo is co-counsel in the case.

Sessions’s reasoning hinged on the argument that domestic violence victims generally are not persecuted as members of a “particular social group,” according to his ruling. Under federal law, asylum applicants must show that either “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion … was or will be at least one central reason” for their persecution.

In the precedent-setting Cifuentes case, the Board of Immigration Appeals held that an applicant can qualify for asylum as a member of a particular social group of “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship.” To support its ruling, the board noted that Guatemala has a culture of “machismo and family violence.” Spousal rape is common and local police often fail to enforce domestic violence laws.

Sessions rejected that reasoning. “When private actors inflict violence based on a personal relationship with a victim,” Sessions wrote, “then the victim’s membership in a larger group may well not be ‘one central reason’ for the abuse.”

“The prototypical refugee flees her home country because the government has persecuted her,” Sessions wrote. “An alien may suffer threats and violence in a foreign country for any number of reasons relating to her social, economic, family, or other personal circumstances. Yet the asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune.”

As Kara Lynum, an immigration lawyer in Minnesota, tweeted, “Sessions thinks these women aren’t eligible for asylum because their husbands are only violent to them — not all women.”

A group of 15 retired immigration judges and former members of the Board of Immigration Appeals wrote a letter in response to Sessions’s decision, calling it an “affront to the rule of law.”

The Cifuentes case, they wrote, “was the culmination of a 15 year process” through the immigration courts and Board of Immigration Appeals. The issue was certified by three attorneys general, one Democrat and two Republican. The private bar and law enforcement agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, agreed with the final determination, the former judges wrote. The decision was also supported by asylum protections under international refugee treaties, they said.

“For reasons understood only by himself, the Attorney General today erased an important legal development that was universally agreed to be correct,” the former judges wrote.

Courts and attorneys general have debated the definition of a “particular social group” since the mid-1990s, according to Musalo.

“It took the refugee area a while to catch up with the human rights area of law,” Musalo said.

A series of cases led up to the Cifuentes decision. In 1996, the Board of Immigration Appeals established that women fleeing gender-based persecution could be eligible for asylum in the United States. The case, known as Matter of Kasinga, centered on a teenager who fled her home in Togo to escape female genital cutting and a forced polygamous marriage. Musalo was lead attorney in the case, which held that fear of female genital cutting could be used as a basis for asylum.

“Fundamentally the principle was the same,” as the one at stake in Sessions’s ruling, Musalo said. Female genital cutting, like domestic violence in the broader sense, generally takes place in the “private” sphere, inflicted behind closed doors by relatives of victims.

Musalo also represented Rody Alvarado, a Guatemalan woman who fled extreme domestic abuse and, in 2009, won an important asylum case after a 14-year legal fight. Her victory broke ground for other women seeking asylum on the basis of domestic violence.

Then, after years of incremental decisions, the Board of Immigration Appeals published its first precedent-setting opinion in the 2014 Cifuentes case, known as Matter of A-R-C-G.

“I actually thought that finally we had made some progress,” Musalo said. Although the impact wasn’t quite as pronounced as many experts had hoped, it was a step for women fleeing gender-based violence in Latin America and other parts of the world.

Now, Musalo says, Sessions is trying to undo all that and is doing so at a particularly monumental time for gender equality in the United States and worldwide.

“We’ve gone too far in society with the MeToo movement and all of the other advances in women’s rights to accept this principle,” Musalo said.

“It shows that there are these deeply entrenched attitudes toward gender and gender equality,” she added. “There are always those forces that are sort of the dying gasp of wanting to hold on to the way things were.”

Sessions assigned the 2016 case to himself under his power as attorney general and said the move will help reduce the growing backlog of 700,000 court cases.

He concluded his ruling by saying he does not intend to “minimize the vile abuse” that the Salvadoran woman suffered or the “harrowing experiences of many other victims of domestic violence around the world.” But the “asylum statute is not a general hardship statute,” Sessions wrote.

Relatively few refugees are granted asylum annually. In 2016, for example, nearly 62 percent of applicants were denied asylum, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

Paul Wickham Schmidt, a retired immigration judge and former chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals, wrote on his blog that Sessions sought to encourage immigration judges to “just find a way to say no as quickly as possible.” (Schmidt authored the decision in the Kasinga case extending asylum protection to victims of female genital mutilation.)

Sessions’s ruling is “likely to speed up the ‘deportation railway,’ ” Schmidt wrote. But it will also encourage immigration judges to “cut corners, and avoid having to analyze the entire case,” he argued.

“Sessions is likely to end up with sloppy work and lots of Circuit Court remands for ‘do overs,’ ” Schmidt wrote. “At a minimum, that’s going to add to the already out of control Immigration Court backlog.”

By Samantha Schmidt/WAPO

Posted by The NON-Conformist


Indiana Republican: When life begins from rape, ’God intended’ it

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Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Indiana, said in a debate on Tuesday that “even when life begins with that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.”

The remark drew criticism from his Democratic opponent, congressman Joe Donnelly, as well as from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s camp – even as Mourdock defended his words.

More from Reuters via NBC News

Posted by Libergirl


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The nation must be stuck on stupid, are we really dealing with another woman’s rights issue? This time, Congress is dealing with abortion. The law they tried to pass would have banned abortions based on the sex of a child; it was voted down. While I disagree with abortion, again, this dumb ass measure they tried to pass loses me. To compare what takes place in U.S. abortion clinics isn’t the same as what happens in India or China. Conservatives, again, are on the wrong side of an issue. What happened to privacy, you aren’t obligated to say why you are getting an abortion. This puts doctors in odd a position, they could be questioned on something that makes them vulnerable. Fortunately it didn’t pass, what a waste. It’s just another bill created to obtain the Christian vote. Hell, there isn’t even proof that abortion clinics are practicing selective abortions.

Repubs want to talk big about the Bill of Rights all the while stepping on it. Now it’s about soda. Mayor Bloomberg has already turned New York into a nanny state. He has banned smoking in the work place, bars, and restaurants and trans fat is also banned in restaurants. His latest ban has to deal with the sale of sodas, he wants to stop the sale of 16 ounce drinks from vendors that benefit the most from the sale of large drinks. He joked that people should buy two drinks. I’m waiting to see all the outrage from the Right, since they represent the conscious of Americans who can’t choose for themselves. Maybe John Edwards was correct when he said, “We live in two Americas.”

The Defense of Marriage Act(DOMA) is being challenged (as well as it should) and the Supreme Court may hear this case. As much as the Religious Right argues, they seem to forget about the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Churches have every right to fight the issue but they have to realize it is a constitutional one.

Think you have privacy, be careful what you say on your phone

The NON-Conformist


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Divisiveness within politics hurts the people who read articles that should speak to the heart of issues. As a moderate-social liberal, anarchist, conservative, libertarian and I’m sure I have many more hats parading as a moderate, I understand distinctions. They should be more rare than distinguishable though. I also understand this is the political season and lies will abound more assertively. Let’s take the Romneys, wow, they are their own worst enemies. The dog comment aside which didn’t help with the campaign, it actually hurt(PETA should be all over that one) plus the overall silliness of the other situation. I’m speaking of the Hilary Rosen so-called fake war on mom’s. Willard needs the female vote as well as the Latino vote so he says he confers with his wife about women. The question Rosen simply raised was how could she relate to the plight of today’s woman. The other question should be, how does “todays” woman relate to Ann Romney? It’s fair to ask, is she’s more worried about redecorating the summer beach house to entertain (my words) than the household budget, which is fine with me. Simply making an obvious point. How can she relate, when some women have to work to help with the household to make ends meet or to make things easier. There shouldn’t have been any animosity pertaining to Rosen’s comments, fake outrage aside.

Let’s look another issue that garners our attention: Ted Nugent. If you’re over 60 you may know the half-naked rocker running with a tail dangling from his ass calling what he does music; oh it’s debatable. Like the next person, I believe in free speech, I also believe personal attacks against any President should be off-limits though not attacks on his policies. What I don’t understand is all the fake outrage when all Obama has done is give gun rights advocates more leeway. Guns in national parks, which I personally think is corny yet it’s acceptable and lawful. I remember receiving calls from the National Rifle Association, I told them this President goes out of his way to not mention the word gun. What gets me most is the hypocrisy of these cowardly men who were draft dodgers, while wearing patriotism on their sleeves. They harp on Obama but gave Reagan a free pass for wanting amnesty for illegals. The National Defense Authorization Act started with George W. Bush and over-stepping of the Bill of Rights, same as the current President. The right knocked Bill Maher but not Ted Nugent, who has gone above and beyond name calling and irresponsible rhetoric, so much so the NRA website scrubbed his comments from their website. Romney needs to come out front and drop his endorsement and revive the JFK and Obama treatment of making useless speeches. Sean Hannity needs to disavow him too, since he considers himself a newsman. No, you’re an entertainer. My whole point is all of  this is how people can take a story and see two total opposites. It’s time to get back to simply giving the real story. I know sensationalism is the new news story. It’s all entertainment, but to whose demise?

Blacks have got to stop getting outraged over things that don’t matter. Are we really outraged over the Bachelor: trailer trash programming  dressed up to mimic real life. Nine or so pretty lonely woman vying for the affection of one jug head. “I have to sleep with all the women to see who I’m most capable with.” Protest something more worthwhile, this isn’t it. It serves as entertainment for a demographic but blacks would be the first to complain, “why are those fine honeys fighting over this one white dude.” Please, I’m begging you, do not protest this show for diversity. If you protest this program for more diversity, you should protest the porn industry too. It’s by far more racist than this show. Simply ask the black male porn(stars), I use the word “star” loosely.

It’s time for Rev. Al to stand down in the Trayvon Martin case. He did what he was supposed to do. The case now has legs and there will more than likely be a trail, thanks to his efforts.  Al, it seems now like your milking it, you may not be but it looks that way. Allow it to be played out in court.

“God hates Politicians.” Stop evoking your God in Politics, we don’t care. You say that Cantor’s budget was based on the Bible. What Bible? I’m surprised there isn’t more outrage from religious people. I forgot, you only count when it’s political season, to get your vote. Churches are ineffective and useless, they don’t know what they believe; only if it’s backed by the faith-based initiative dollars. If you need milk go to church, if you want meat; study to show though self approved. If I attend a fellowship, I want to learn how to live an upstanding life, not about who I should vote for. Billy Graham did stump for Nixon. Keep talking, I want that tax-exempt status removed.

The NON-Conformist


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To spin a tale is an old school word for LIE! Sarah Palin looks into the camera and lies. Why would she do such a thing; to save face, maybe. If I pondered more, I could say, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. After watching Game Change, the movie based on the book, it solidified what I’ve always thought of her, she’s an undisciplined fool. Fox News treats her like much of the educational system treats our young by turning a blind eye and feeding them to the wolves. Palin is a stalwart that benefits magnificently. It’s hard for me to take her seriously, look at her on Hannity (who looks at her like a sandwich) he never asks her to elaborate on a subject, she gets her talking points in and she’s off and it’s on to the next guest. Fox isn’t doing her any favors by doing this, notice how she stays away from other news outlets.

Game Change may have taken some creative license or did it? The fact remains she doesn’t know anything, she doesn’t further the cause of woman. She doesn’t speak to their plight. Where was she on the subject of woman and contraceptives and basic women’s rights? Where is she on the subject of Down’s Syndrome, a condition that occurs in one out of every 691 births? She didn’t run for president for the fear of appearing dumb. I understand there is a lot to know, but the things she should have known were basic at best. Another thing that really bothers me is she was the governor of Alaska and didn’t know these things.

In her last bout on the beach ball hour show that is Hannity(another person that doesn’t know a lot), she was there for the issue of Critical Race Theory. My issue is when you are a guest on a program, you should have a working knowledge of the subject that we don’t. So what did she say, “Our President is one who is trying to divide our country,” Palin said. “He is not in this to unify America and to solidify our place as the exceptional nation in the world. He is trying to divide us based along lines of gender, of religion, of income, even of race. Look at his embracing of Derrick Bell, the radical college racist professor who he, you showed in a video last night, embraced literally and figuratively, asking others to open their hearts and minds to the radical agenda of a racist like Derrick Bell who believed that white men oppress blacks and minorities. And Barack Obama, evidently at least at the time, believed what Derrick Bell believed.” Palin’s words not mine.

I wonder whose opinion that really was? Fox is trying so hard to make her relevant, to capitalize on her waning fame. What does she bring to the program except for the same thoughts as the host. An apology, an apology for what. You hit the stump putting the President down, now out of your mouth you say “he’s no man of valor.” She then tried to tie the money given by Bill Maher, who openly disclosed, but didn’t mention the other shady money by billionaires as well as millionaires who don’t disclose, hum.

Also Hannity’s hatred of the President shows his ineptness a hundredfold. On the issue of CRT he was schooled by Jaun Williams, sort of. Hannity comes off like Brietbart light.

A brief primer on CRT’s history was a major paper in college and I learned from readings the works of others. If you want to learn more read works by Martin Luther King, Jr., Professor Tommy J. Curry, W.E.B Debouis and Mary Dusiac. CRT simply shows racism is alive and well today. It shows segregation or white supremacy and whites as rulers. It questions whites in leadership and also delves into playing the race card AKA the fear of blacks getting the upper hand. It also covers the structural elements of racism. Remember Hillary’s comment from 2008, “White America isn’t ready for a black president.” What more disturbing than painting intellectuals as radicals?  Bell challenges American whites that they can’t dictate all the values of our society. Stop trotting out MLK as the safe black. He too was critical of white liberals, civil rights movements and whites who called themselves Christian but didn’t fight for equality. America has schizophrenic personality when it comes to the Negro.

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