A woman from Honduras, who shall be identified only by her initials, L.C., was granted asylum in an immigration court in Chicago early this year. She came to the United States with her teenage daughter, fording the Rio Grande in Texas, after the girl had the extremely bad fortune of being a passer-by witness to a noonday massacre on a street near their home. Gunmen from the Mara 18 gang murdered eight people, mostly bus dispatchers, because the bus company was balking at paying a tax to the gang.
Soon the killers came to L.C.’s house, threatening to abduct her daughter for the sex trade and demanding that L.C. pay the gang for her child to be spared.
But that story of fear was not what convinced the immigration judge that L.C. had met the legal standard for asylum. Rather, it was her account of 16 years of beatings and sexual assault by her husband. In one of the last episodes before she fled, he had pressed a pistol to her temple to show how easy it would be to kill her.
Women in an exodus from Central America since 2014 have succeeded in winning asylum or other protections in the United States as victims of a pandemic of domestic abuse in that region. Because of recent cases that established fear of domestic violence as a legitimate basis for asylum, those claims often found more solid legal grounding in U.S. immigration court than claims of people who said they were escaping from killer gangs.
Now the Trump administration, determined to stop the stream of people to the border from Central America, is moving to curtail or close the legal avenues to protection for abused women like L.C. While the #MeToo movement has swept the country, bringing new legitimacy to women’s stories and consequences for men who abused, on immigration President Donald Trump is going the other way. [Continue reading…]