Ashcroft Delays Decision in Key Asylum Case

After taking the asylum request of Rody Adali Alvarado Peña, a domestic violence survivor, under advisement and delaying a decision for years, Attorney General John Ashcroft will leave office without deciding the case, he announced Friday.

“It is deeply disappointing that Attorney General Ashcroft did not grant asylum to Rody Alvarado, but instead sent her case back to the Board of Immigration Appeals,” Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) President Esta Soler said. The Board of Immigration Appeals is the highest court within the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

In taking this action, Ashcroft ignored the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which last year filed a brief in support of Alvarado’s claim to asylum. By not deciding the case in her favor, Ashcroft extends her period of limbo, and that of other victims of violence who seek asylum in the United States.

Women like Rody Alvardo, who are fleeing domestic violence, honor killings, sexual slavery and other forms of gender-based violence, “deserve asylum in this country,” Soler added. “As the President begins his second term, we urge him to put meaning behind his words of compassion for women facing violence in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, by quickly granting asylum to Rody Alvarado and other women who are seeking to escape gender-based violence.”

“It is unconscionable that the Attorney General will leave office without following the Department of Homeland Security recommendation to grant Ms. Alvarado asylum,” said Karen Musalo, Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies and Alvarado’s attorney.

Horrific Violence

Over the course of her marriage, Rody Alvarado’s husband turned their home in Guatemala into a virtual torture chamber. He beat and raped her, whipped and kicked her until she lost consciousness, threatened her with machetes and guns, and attempted to abort their second child by kicking her until she hemorrhaged.

Because her repeated pleas to police and courts in Guatemala were rebuffed, Alvarado concluded that the only way to survive was to seek refuge far away from her husband. So Alvarado came to the U.S. in 1995 and was granted asylum in 1996. But, in the years since, immigration courts made conflicting rulings that left her case unresolved.

Former Attorney General Janet Reno acted on Alvarado’s behalf, but Attorney General Ashcroft took her case under advisement, leaving her – and countless women in similar situations – in limbo.

Groups as diverse as Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Amnesty International-USA, Concerned Women for America and the FVPF have pressed for asylum for Alvarado.

A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson told Associated Press that it will not deport Alvarado. But only a favorable decision on asylum will give her the legal status she needs to bring her children to the U.S. – and only a favorable decision will help other women who are seeking to escape gender-based violence.

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