Judge Emmet Sullivan, on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, today struck down a decision instituted by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions that made it almost impossible for victims of domestic and gang violence to seek asylum in the United States. Reacting to the order, Amnesty International USA Director of the Gender, Sexuality and Identity Program, Tarah Demant stated:
“Survivors of domestic violence and gang violence have already been terrorized at home and have made the dangerous journey to the U.S. to seek protection. They have the right to seek protection in the United States as they flee to escape violence, trauma, and extreme danger in Central America.
“The U.S. government was wrong to turn its back and unlawfully deport them under this dangerous policy, which we know can mean life or death for many. In light of this ruling, the U.S must allow others to return so they can finally seek the protection they need before it’s too late.”
In June, Amnesty International responded to the newly-announced policy, calling it a direct assault on people seeking protection that would have far-ranging implications, devastating the ability of people fleeing persecution inflicted by non-governmental actors to pursue their cases in the United States.
Right now, families and individuals are coming to the United States to escape violence and persecution in Central America. Most people come from the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, and more people are also leaving Nicaragua. These countries are currently experiencing some of the highest levels of violence on earth outside of conflict zones. The gangs’ control of large territories affects all of society, including sexual violence against women and girls, specific targeting of LGBTI people, and forced recruitment of children, especially boys. Unable to seek protection or justice from ineffective and often corrupt criminal justice systems, people are fleeing their homes as the only way to escape violence.