NYS Rallies in Defense of Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence

Denying their asylum petitions could cost many women their lives. (Photo via El Diario)

The decision of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to shut down every possibility of obtaining asylum for victims of domestic violence further radicalizes the Trump administration’s immigration policy, and states such as New York are evaluating their options to protect immigrants.

At least that’s what New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. Along with other elected officials and immigrant advocates across the state, he categorically criticized the new measure.

“It is unthinkable that the Trump administration wants to shut the door on victims of domestic violence,”said Cuomo, who is a former New York attorney general. He added: “We are reviewing the decision and will explore all options to protect victims of domestic violence,” .

The Department of Justice revealed on Monday that immigrants who are victims of domestic violence or gangs will no longer be eligible for asylum, after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he will tighten the requirements.

“It’s clear that this administration has forgotten what makes our country great. But in New York, we remember the words engraved on the Statue of Liberty that welcome those ‘yearning to breathe free,’ and we will always stand as a beacon of hope and opportunity for all,” added the governor.

New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand took to Twitter to condemn the DOJ announcement:

The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) warned that the DOJ decision misapplies the settled legal standard for determining when harm by nongovernmental actors rises to the level of persecution.

“Attorney General Sessions is re-victimizing people fleeing sexual and domestic violence by further calling their claims into question. As the top law enforcement official in the United States, he should be more concerned with ending violence against women than criminalizing the victims,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the NYIC.

Natalia Aristizabal, co-director of organizing at Make the Road New York, said that Jeff Sessions is using his power as attorney general to further attack immigrant communities.

“This new public policy attacks immigrants whose lives have been full of trauma and violence and who seek relief in the United States. We condemn Sessions’ actions and are committed to continue fighting to gain the respect and the dignified treatment all immigrants deserve. We’re here, and we’re not leaving,” said Aristizabal.

Rep. Joe Crowley, chair of the House of Representatives’ Democratic Caucus, said that the DOJ’s decision will put vulnerable people fleeing severe violence in danger.

“Slamming the door on innocent victims seeking safety goes against everything our country stands for, and any Republican who doesn’t loudly condemn this disgusting policy will lack credibility if they ever again try to claim to stand for families, women or children,” he stated.

Crowley represents District 14, comprising parts of Queens and the Bronx. He added that the attorney general and the Trump administration will stop at nothing to demonize immigrants and terrorize those who come to U.S. borders seeking refuge.

For her part, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez said: “Not only has the administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy resulted in children being literally ripped from the arms of their parents, but now the attorney general is trying to eliminate refuge for those fleeing gang and domestic violence.”

Velázquez – representing District 7 of New York, which comprises parts of Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan and Queens – described the measure as “shameful” and made a call to “work to reverse this immoral policy change by every means possible, including legislatively in the halls of Congress and in the courts.”

Liz Roberts, deputy CEO at organization Safe Horizons, said she was “deeply troubled and disappointed.”

The attorney general’s decision “reverses years of case law and tragically places these survivors at risk once again. We want immigrant victims of violence to know that we stand with you today and always,” said Roberts.

Anne Pilsbury, director of organization Central American Legal Assistance, criticized the move in equally harsh terms. “This decision does not come as a big surprise, given the attorney general’s hostility toward immigrants in general. This is the same administration that believes it is right to separate parents from their young children at the border,” she said.

In a joint statement, Democratic Congress members Jerrold Nadler and Zoe Lofgren – representing New York and California, respectively – condemned the Trump administration’s decision.

“[The] decision puts American immigration enforcement on the side of domestic abusers. In yet another step made by this administration to dismantle U.S. asylum protections, this decision undermines protections for victims of domestic violence and takes away one of the few opportunities for refuge available to victims who are subjected to horrific violence in the home,” read the statement.

Nadler is a ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Lofgren is a ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

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