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Tell Jeff Sessions domestic violence victims need asylum

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced he will reconsider whether women fleeing severe domestic violence can quality for asylum in the United States. His decision could be devastating for women like my client, Aracely, who have faced unthinkable violence.

Aracely’s story exemplifies why we must fight to uphold asylum protections for survivors of domestic violence. At age 15, a violent man from Aracely’s village in Honduras marked her as his woman. He terrorized her for years, subjecting her to continuous physical abuse and rape, until one day when he shot Aracely in the head, killed her two sons, and then killed himself. Aracely, who was pregnant at the time, miraculously survived, as did her daughter. After the shooting, her abuser’s family pursued her relentlessly, seeking to kill her to avenge his death. There was nowhere in Honduras she could go to escape them, and no one who could protect her. The only way for Aracely to save her life was to flee to the United States.

The Tahirih Justice Center assigned Aracely’s case to me as her pro bono attorney. The first time I met Aracely, she handed me for safekeeping the only photograph she had of her murdered sons. From that day on, we worked together – with the help of her tremendous courage and strength – to revisit the trauma she survived so she could obtain legal protection. After more than a year of working on her case, she applied for and was granted asylum on the grounds that the severe violence she faced rose to the level of persecution that her government would not protect her from.

When she escaped Honduras, Aracely left behind the only home she had ever known, her family that was her only safety net, her daughter and the memories of her murdered sons. She came here not speaking English and with a head injury from her gunshot wound. But despite all these unimaginable obstacles, Aracely was able to achieve justice here in the United States. And because of the asylum law in this country that protects women fleeing domestic violence, Aracely now has a green card and finally feels safe. She was able to bring her daughter to the United States under her grant of asylum, and her daughter is a happy, healthy, hard-working elementary school student who is carrying forward her mother’s commitment to end violence against women.

Right now, Sessions is rethinking whether women like Aracely should be granted safety in the United States under existing asylum law. He has referred to himself a case similar to Aracely’s, called Matter of A-B-, in which a woman was granted asylum because she experienced extensive physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her domestic partner.

At the Tahirih Justice Center, we are fighting to uphold these critical protections for survivors of violence, and we need your help. Please sign and share our petition, which we will deliver to the attorney general. We know that public attention has made a real difference in cases like these, and we ask that you take action for courageous women fleeing violence.

Kristen Strain is the executive director of the Tahirih Justice Center’s Baltimore office. She can be reached at