By Alexandra Dufresne

Alexandra Dufresne, a U.S.-trained lawyer for children and refugees, is Chair of the Board of Trustees of Asylos. She directs the International NGO Law and Policy Project at ZHAW in Switzerland, where she teaches U.S. and international law.   

Lawyers for asylum seekers and refugees know that good news is hard to find. For policy-makers and members of the public, the challenges in the asylum systems of Western democracies often seem overwhelming. And asylum-seekers and refugees are all too painfully aware of the cruelty of an often unjust, irrational and unpredictable system. 

So when a government does something well and takes a step in the direction of due process and recognition of the rule of law, it is cause for celebration. 

Recent Decisions Protecting Asylum-Seekers in the U.S.

The Biden Administration in the United States has taken a number of steps to rationalize the asylum and refugee system. The Administration still has a long way to go to protect the human rights of those who seek refuge in the United States, but it is making progress.

Earlier this week, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland issued two noteworthy decisions that will improve protection for those at serious risk of persecution from non-state actors. In Matter of A-B, Attorney General Garland vacated a decision by Trump’s Attorney General that had radically limited access to asylum for those fleeing private violence, such as survivors of extreme domestic violence and gang violence. In Matter of L.E.A. the Attorney General vacated a prior Trump-era decision that had limited protection based on family status, which had had the practical effect of denying protection to many families fleeing threats from gangs. Both of these decisions restore the law to where it was pre-Trump, until the new Administration writes new regulations. We do not yet know what the new regulations will say, but this reversal is an excellent first step.  

Asylos’ Work: More Relevant than Ever

These decisions (re)opening the door for domestic violence and gang-related claims mean that the work of Asylos is more relevant now than ever. Why? Because now that these claims cannot be thrown out for spurious legal reasons, these cases will be “won or lost on the facts.” And the best way to prove the facts of an asylum case is through high-quality country conditions research that supports, and provides context for, the testimony of the applicant.  

Under the Biden Administration, U.S. decision-makers will likely remain reluctant to recognize claims that do not meet high evidentiary burdens, for fear of admitting “too many” applicants or incentivizing further migration. Domestic violence is pervasive in many places in the world; to meet the standards required for asylum, flawless documentary evidence of the nature, reasons for, context, and lack of domestic remedies for the abuse is often required. Similarly, gang violence is so pervasive and extreme in the Northern Triangle of Central America that only claims with excellent human rights documentation will likely be viable. 

Asylos’ country conditions reports are painstaking, thorough and precise. Our team of volunteer researchers are highly-trained, experienced and motivated. Our researchers devote several days of work to just one report because they know that a case can turn on documentation of a single detail. And we make our reports available, free of charge, to any counsel for asylum seekers who signs up for our database.

So, at Asylos, we are celebrating World Refugee Day by doing what we do best - working. If you are an attorney or NGO worker representing asylum-seekers, you can access Asylos’ database of over 500 reports and make a research request on our Resources Page.

Visit Resources Page

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