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Ruling may impact undocumented immigrants in Pennsylvania

The Justice Department's Board of Immigration Appeals ruled on Aug. 26 that victims of domestic abuse could qualify for asylum. The ruling came after a Guatemalan women claimed that she entered the country illegally in 2005 to escape her abusive husband. She also said that the police would not respond to her calls for help. The ruling in the case was not contested by the Department of Homeland Security, and an attorney for the woman says that she believes that she will ultimately win her case.

While the woman has not won asylum, merely winning the right to an immigration hearing can be beneficial for many people who try to enter the country. This is because a ruling may not come for several years due to a backlog of 375,000 pending cases. While the cases are pending, the immigrant is allowed to work legally and stay in the country.

The decision may create a precedent for others seeking asylum in the United States. From 2008 to 2009, over a quarter of all women in Guatemala reported being the victim of sexual or physical abuse from a spouse. This was according to a 2012 report from the Pan American Health Organization. The Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that Guatemala ranked third in the world in 2013 in terms of women murdered.

Those who are seeking asylum may wish to enlist the help of an immigration attorney. An attorney may be able to convince a judge that an individual will suffer physical or emotional abuse if forced to return home. In addition, an attorney might be able to use recently established precedents as the basis for an asylum petition.

Source: WISTV, "US to consider spousal abuse in immigration claims", Alicia A. Caldwell, August 27, 2014

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