The historical components covered in this section begin with the Refugee Act of 1980; however, the history of refugees has an extensive history in itself.  Another note is that the main components in this historical context relate to the importance of these events in the lives of women refugees with a focus on the United States and specifically asylum seekers in terms of the history.

The Refugee Act of 1980

This act is important for refugees and plays a role in formulating a solid definition of refugees in the United States, for the time being at least. The act defines refugees as having a "well-founded fear of persecution for the reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion" (Anker 431). 

The reason this is a major start in the idea of having a specific category for refugee women is because the statement above has no gender specific issues that many of the women face. During this time period these issues have no name and have no place in refugee, particularly asylum, consideration. It is the baseline for all the progress that has occurred since. 

The No-Name Concept

Here is where I see the word 'specificity' coming in. It is of the same nature and tone of 'intesectionality', but it is particularly applicable to the refugee women who required specifics and clarifications to asylum law and need gender-based claims to be seen and explored. Intersectionality creates the need for specificity. In addition, it is what I see as the best word to describe why this project is about Refugee Women, the need for that specification of women in the context of refugees makes all the difference in the perception of refugee law.


Decision in Matter of Acosta by the Board of Immigration Appeals 

This decision resulted in the board providing a refined definition of Particular Social Groups (PSG). It is also a pillar in the establishment and consideration of gender-based asylum claims.

The board decided to define PSG as having "'a common, immutable characteristic' that 'members of the group either cannot change, or should not be required to change because it is fundamental to their individual identities" (Anker). Sex was discussed as one example. 

Having gender be specified in this context is such an important step in the right direction  as refugee women start to get some recognition after having such a long period where protections were denied. It at least opened the door for conversation and a chance at asylum.


The United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees Executive Commitee Adopted Concluson No.39

This coincides with the board decision by putting into law that "women asylum seekers who fear harsh or inhumane treatment for gender-based reasons may be considered a PSG" (Anker). The addition of these specific cases make the lives of women asylum seekers a bit easier, but it does not relieve the entire burden and requires active changes and the changing of perspectives of the public when it comes to the situations the women are in.

2014 - Present

2014 - Board Issued a Precedent Decision in the Matter of A-R-C-G

The decision concludes that domestic violence can be considered in asylum cases as it presents a situation where the state cannot protect the victim.

This more recent decision is the result of years of debating a quesiton the board had about whether domestic violence can be seen as a viable claim for asylum. This debate influenced advocates to look for additional routes and perspectives to back up violence based asylum claims.

2018 - Matter of A-B-

This decision reversed the 2014 decision regarding the consideration of domestic violence as a viable reason for asylum. This decision specifically reveresed asylum for a Salvadoranian woman who was abused physically and sexually by her ex-husband (Gerken 256). 

One key takeaway from the parameters and statement made by the attorney general was that he referred to domestic violence as a "misfortune" and that the person asking for asylum was to show extensively that the government was involved versus just giving the governement unable to control it (Gerken 256). Such a decision is a setback in relation to domestic violence, one of the main issues at the forefront of many refugee women.

However, in Christina Gerken's research she found that the effect was not as detrimental as it was thought to be and in turn brought forth a new revelation: the inconsistencies of asylum cases. Which presents the need for understanding the experiences faced by refugee women as one proposed reasoning for inconsistencies is the judges discretion based on lack of evidence and lack of understanding.


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