Ruling Opens Door to Asylum for Guatemalan Women Fleeing Violence

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

WASHINGTON – The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned deportation orders for a Guatemalan woman who had asked for asylum because she feared to be returned to her own country due to its high murder rate for women. In the ruling issued Monday by the San Francisco-based court, Judge Richard A. Paez decided that the case must be reviewed by the Board of Immigration Appeals, the highest entity enforcing U.S. immigration laws.

The federal court thus rejected the arguments of the board and of an immigration judge who said that Guatemalan women are “too broad a social group” to be allowed to request asylum. Under international agreements, a person can request asylum when they can show that they cannot or do not want to return to their country because of the threat of being persecuted for their race, religion, nationality, political opinions or because they belong to a certain social group.

The person who requested the asylum is Lesly Yajayra Perdomo, who illegally came to the United States in 1991 at the age of 15 to join her mother in Reno, Nevada. In 2003, she was accused of illegally entering the country and authorities ruled that she should be deported, a decision that remains pending, after which she asked for asylum and the judges had issued rulings against her, which she appealed. Perdomo testified that her “fear (of returning to her country) was based on the high murder rate for women in Guatemala and her own status as a Guatemalan woman,” according to the court document.

The asylum applicant presented to the judges reports by the United Nations on the torture and deaths of women that occur in her country and the lack of a response to that by the Guatemalan government. The 9th Circuit ordered the BIA to consider whether women in a specific country, lacking any other defined characteristic, can constitute a protected social group.

By way of example, it cited other rulings in which other social groups, such as gypsies, homosexuals or Somali women who were facing genital mutilation, were previously considered or defined as asylum applicants. EFE