Monday, June 17, 2024

Immigration Article of the Day: The Gendered Violence of Asylum Reporting Requirements by Amelia Steadman McGowan

Amelia McGowan

The Gendered Violence of Asylum Reporting Requirements by Amelia Steadman McGowan, Columbia Human Rights Law Review, Forthcoming


In the past two decades, some U.S. courts have created and imposed hardline, or “per se,” reporting requirements that bar protection to asylum applicants who did not first report persecution from non-state actors to the authorities before fleeing. These requirements provide no exceptions, even in the face of undisputed evidence that reporting would have been futile, dangerous, or even impossible. While prior legal scholarship has addressed the dangers of reporting requirements generally, this Article explores the unique burdens that these requirements place on applicants with gender-based claims.

This Article applies feminist theory and an interdisciplinary approach to explore the reasons why reporting is often futile, dangerous, or impossible for women and girls fleeing gender-based violence in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador—three of the top countries of origin for applicants seeking protection in the United States. This Article contends that the same misogyny that fuels gender-based violence also infuses the very government structures charged with providing protection from that violence. It argues that when U.S. courts minimize or ignore an applicant’s reasons for not reporting gender-based violence, they condone and perpetuate the same violence that the applicant fled. By using both English- and Spanish-language sources and centering the voices and experiences of Latin American scholars and advocates from and in the focus countries, this Article also challenges the hegemony of U.S. government reports in establishing country conditions in U.S. asylum proceedings. For both reasons, this Article will provide an important contribution to refugees, academics, practitioners, and policymakers working to challenge the application of reporting requirements and to fortify gender-based refugee protections.


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