Bloggings on Political Asylum

by Jason Dzubow

Senators Try to Help Women Immigrants, But Ignore Women Asylum Seekers

A proposed amendment to the Senate Immigration Bill would reserve 30,000 green cards for people in jobs traditionally held by women, such as nannies, home health-care workers, and early childhood educators. The amendment is sponsored by 12 of the 20 women in the U.S. Senate.

According to the Washington Post,*the “lawmakers say pending immigration legislation is unfairly weighted toward male workers because it rewards applicants who are better educated and have more technical skills.”

You're in

You’re in

While I agree that the immigration system has been skewed in favor of male immigrants, I am not sure that this is the best way to help female immigrants. Either we need high skilled workers in our economy or we don’t; either we need more nannies in our economy or we don’t. Why not set the number of visas for each category based on the needs of our economy, and then reserve a certain percentage (say 50%) of visas for women. Is this discriminatory? Yes, but Congress has the power to discriminate when it comes to immigration law, and if the idea is to help women and aid our economy, then this would be one way to achieve that goal.

If members of the Senate are inclined to help women immigrants, I have another idea: Do something to rectify the male-centric asylum law.

Modern U.S. asylum law is based on a definition of “refugee” that was codified in the 1950's. The types of people seeking asylum in those days were mostly men–political activists fleeing persecution, for example–and this is what the law reflects. Gender violence was not part of the equation, and the statute (INA*§ 101(a)(42))*did not (and does not) protect victims of domestic violence, female genital mutilation, forced marriage or sexual assault.*

The last legislative change to the definition of refugee occurred in 1996 when Congress made forced abortion and forced family planning a basis for refugee status. My impression is that this amendment had more to do with domestic politics (showing fealty to pro-life voters and sticking it to the Chinese Communists) than to helping women, but nevertheless, many women (and men) have benefited from the change.

You're out

You’re out

Other pro-women changes to the law in recent decades have been driven by lawyer advocates. As a result of these changes, it is now possible for victims of FGM and forced marriage to receive asylum. Victims of domestic violence can also sometimes receive asylum.*But if Congress is planning to amend the immigration law, and if the Senate wants to help women, why not do something to codify and protect these advances?*

In addition, I would hope that the pro-women Senators would support the elimination of the one-year asylum filing deadline (aliens who fail to file for asylum within one year of arrival in the United States are ineligible for asylum). A study from Temple University and Georgetown (my two alma maters!) has shown that female asylum seekers are 50% more likely to file for asylum three years or more after arrival. In an excellent piece on this point, Elisa Massimino of Human Rights First explains that one reason for the delay is the shame many women feel when they have to publicly describe their persecution. This jibes with my experience–many of my female clients filed late because of shame, depression, ignorance about the asylum system (and whether the persecution they face would qualify them for protection), and what might be called “conditioned subservience.”

I agree with the Senators who believe that something needs to be done to help female immigrants. Helping women who face persecution–and who are currently falling through the cracks of our asylum system–would be an excellent place to begin.

Originally posted on the Asylumist:

About The Author

Jason Dzubow's practice focuses on immigration law, asylum, and appellate litigation. Mr. Dzubow is admitted to practice law in the federal and state courts of Washington, DC and Maryland, the United States Courts of Appeals for the Third, Fourth, Eleventh, and DC Circuits, all Immigration Courts in the United States, and the Board of Immigration Appeals. He is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the Capital Area Immigrant Rights (CAIR) Coalition. In June 2009, CAIR Coalition honored Mr. Dzubow for his Outstanding Commitment to Defending the Rights and Dignity of Detained Immigrants.In December 2011, Washingtonian magazine recognized Dr. Dzubow as one of the best immigration lawyers in the Washington, DC area; in March 2011, he was listed as one of the top 25 legal minds in the country in the area of immigration law. Mr. Dzubow is also an adjunct professor of law at George Mason University in Virginia.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) alone and should not be imputed to ILW.COM.