The DeFranco Plan to provide 20 steps to a Total Makeover of Our Democracy continues —
Stop the War on Immigrant Women
Federal immigration officials grant asylum in the United States to a far higher percentage of men rather than women. Recognizing this gender-based discrimination in asylum cases is fundamental to womens’ achievement of true equality. When it comes to immigration, Marisa has the expertise to back up her position on asylum discrimination against women. Her reform encompasses what is good for our Nation’s safety and security while keeping alive the promise of immigration that is the fundamental heritage of our country.
Race. Religion. Nationality. Political Opinion. Membership in a particular social group — what are these five categories? These are the characteristics that will afford a person the protection of asylum in the United States. What category is missing? Women. Why? Because the United States government, despite its profuse pledges to oppose the ‘War on Women’, is hostile to women in general, and to immigrant women in particular.
Marisa points out that asylum law in the U.S. generally favors men. The United States government’s sexism in its immigration policy is so total that the U.S. Department of Justice doesn’t even keep reliable statistics on grants of asylum by gender.
Immigration and Nationality Act. INA section 101(a)(42)(A)
“any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of [gender] (“gender” is the term that is missing from this section), race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, or….”
Any member of Congress can protect women by taking Marisa’s proposal, and introducing the term “gender” into this bill at any time. However, despite the loud protestations of so many in Congress and in the Senate about the kidnapped Nigerian girls, there does not appear to be any concrete legislative action to protect immigrant women in the United States who have fled sex trafficking and other persecution.
The truly fair, pro-woman solution would be to add gender as a sixth category in asylum law. Women are targeted and persecuted because they are women, whether the persecution involves sex trafficking, kidnapping, attempted murder, torture, domestic violence, FGM, rape or rape as a weapon of war.
It’s hateful to reference rape as merely “forceful” sex. As recently as 2004, the United States government argued that rape is simply a matter of “forceful” sex, and the Ninth Circuit court chastised the government for contributing to this noxious notion: “Furthermore, the DOJ’s argument simply perpetuates the myth that “[r]ape is just forceful sex by men who cannot control themselves[.]
Republicans and Democrats both are waging this war on women. The denials to women seeking asylum were imposed by George H. Bush’s Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Bill Clinton’s INS, and George W. Bush’s Department of Homeland Security. President Barack Obama’s DHS continues this sustained anti-woman policy with its recent comparison of sex trafficking to regular crime.
There is another, darker side of this story. The maltreatment of immigrant women by the United States government is bad enough, but when the United States government gives relief to persecutors and members of terrorist groups while denying protection to women fleeing for their lives, then the sheer madness of United States asylum and immigration law is laid bare.
A persecutor who is not granted asylum may still avoid deportation through other forms of relief. Our government gives refuge to persecutors but deports the victims. Even asylum isn’t completely withheld — there is an exception — if he can prove he was under duress when he committed the persecution.
So, a Boko Harum member could gain refuge in our country if he kidnapped and/or raped a Nigerian girl, as long as he can prove he was under duress when he committed the crime; but the girl herself would be deported because her involvement in trafficking is considered to be another form of criminal activity. Now that Boko Harum is designated as a terrorist group, she might have a shot at relief (no guarantee), but for girls and women kidnapped, trafficked, or raped by “non-terrorist” groups? Our United States government deports them.
Where is the outcry from Congress, from the journalists, from the pundits? Where is the specific legislative action by Congress on behalf of these women? While we wait for the Congress to put their words into actions, women die or suffer grave indignities and abuses.
The real solution is to fix the asylum law that leaves women behind and for dead. We should base our laws on legal precedent and what is equitable under the Constitution and laws of the United States. The premise at issue in gender asylum laws is basic — asylum law affords protection to people who are persecuted because of who they are, the faith they practice and the political opinions they have. Nothing is more fundamental to who we are than gender.
Politicians and pundits use women to sell their newspapers or win political office, but they won’t go out on a limb to protect a population that has few or no votes or funds. Unless and until racism and misogyny are seen as equal on the continuum of hatred and persecution, women will continue to be second-class citizens.
Politicians can cry ‘war on women’ all they want, but until they get behind a concrete change in the law that actually helps women, they are culpable. Congress could easily amend the anti-woman asylum law. If Marisa’s solution is accepted and implemented, true equality for women in our asylum law would become a reality.
Marisa said: “Any person in the real world should see that Congress, if it stopped spewing slogans, and if it had the courage to take real action, could propose real Immigration Reform that is serious about equality for women. Allowing persecutors and members of terrorist groups to stay in the United States while denying women relief risks the safety of every American and undercuts our commitment to human rights. It is illogical, is a set-up for disaster, is bad for the American people, and desecrates everything for which our Statue of Liberty stands. Where has John Tierney been for the past 17 years? Why has he only passed one bill in all that time? My solution offers a fair and just solution, with a tremendously positive impact on our safety and our human rights record by stopping the war on immigrant women, thereby ensuring safety & justice, fueling job growth, and growing Main Street.