Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Effects of Trump's Policies on Female Asylum Seekers

Guest blogger: Deborah Ibonwa, law student, University of San Francisco:

Imagine this: a woman reaches the American border after days of traveling with small children who are hungry and exhausted. She has hopes of finding escape from her rapists/traffickers/abusive partner, does not speak any English, has no lawyer, and no knowledge of United States (U.S.) immigration law. Under President Trump’s new immigration policy, border patrol agents are more likely to turn her away even if she is eligible for asylum.


Female asylum seekers who are here for safety and whom are the backbone of our workforce deserve legal protection in the United States.  Under the new immigration policy declared n President Trump’s Border Enforcement Order, a new Asylum Division Lesson Plan was released, making it easy for migrant women and girls to be turned away to face persecution. More women are at risk to be sent to face rape, human trafficking, domestic violence, and other forms of gender violence and persecution. Further, President Trump’s immigration policy has resulted in violations of the non-refoulment principle of Article 33 of the Refugee Convention. We need this administration to make sure women get asylum when they are eligible and that they are protected from further abuse while in the U.S.

Effect on female asylum seekers:

Women who make it to the U.S. border must inform a Customs and Border Patrol officer that they are afraid to go back to their home country, after which they are detained while waiting for a credible fear interview with an asylum officer. If that is cleared they eventually attend an asylum hearing. Tahirih Justice Center,  Tahirih Justice Center,  Summary of February 13, 2017 Asylum Division Lesson Plan Implementing Executive Orders, https://www.tahirih.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Tahirih-Summary-of-CFI-RFI-Changes-3.6.17.pdf (March 6, 2017).   The rule was that a person should be referred to an asylum officer for a screening interview if there was any reasonable doubt as to whether the person had a credible fear of persecution. An asylum officer had to consider if the victim had “significant possibility” to convince an Immigration Judge that they had credible fear of being subject to torture as defined in the Convention Against Torture. Under Trump’s policy, there is no “significant possibility” standard, and asylum officers now decide whether someone holds credible fear, which is the authority of an Immigration Judge.  Id.  As a result, women and girls are often turned away without having a chance to seek representation and having a full adjudicative proceeding. Id.

Why we need to protect female immigrants:

In addition to the U.S.’ humanitarian obligations, we need to protect women immigrants because they are a crucial driving force to our economy. According to the Women’s Refugee Commission, Female immigrants make up 95% of the domestic labor force, 40% of all immigrant business owners, and they are more likely to start businesses than U.S. born women. Despite their huge impact in the U.S. economy, immigrant women, especially undocumented immigrants, are unlikely to report abuses committed against them by employers because they fear deportation and have no protection. This is especially true under the Trump administration. The impact of immigrant women in the US economy is tremendous, and President Trump’s immigration policy reforms and Executive Order poses many threats to these individuals.


Our new immigration policy has a disastrous impact on women seeking refuge from persecution and gender-based violence. The changes make it shamefully easy to turn away millions of women who are eligible for asylum back to their death, violating international human rights obligations all the while. We need to step up the pressure on our current administration to take these lives into consideration.  It is imperative for the good of humankind and under legal obligation.



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