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Attorney general may deny asylum to domestic violence survivors

Major shifts to immigration policy and enforcement have occurred in the first two years of the Trump administration. One issue that has yet to be resolved is whether some victims of domestic violence will continue to gain asylum status in U.S. immigration courts. For women who escape abuse in their home countries to states like Texas, how the attorney general decides to rule on these cases will have a serious impact on their future.

Previously, victims of domestic violence in countries throughout South and Central America won asylum status in the United States because they were members of a protected group: women abused by partners who received no help from their own government. More than 100,000 asylum cases were filed in 2017, but there's no information about the percentage of these that involved victims of domestic violence.

The attorney general cannot change United States asylum law on his own, but he can shift precedent in immigration courts. If he decides that domestic violence victims no longer qualify for asylum, judges throughout the country would be forced to rule the same way. The attorney general has openly questioned whether domestic violence should qualify for asylum because he considers it private criminal activity rather than oppression by a government.

Individuals and families who are caught up in the United States immigration system may get representation from a lawyer on their own, but they are not granted an attorney by the government if they can't afford one. Lack of counsel can have a profound impact on the lives of both adults and children in immigration courts. U.S. immigration law is complicated, but an attorney may be able to help individuals who otherwise face deportation.

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