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In the 1960s and 1970s, the women’s movement brought the issue of domestic violence to the forefront of American consciousness. In the decades to follow, the United States expressed a commitment to protecting victims of domestic violence through legislation and reform that reframed the issue as a matter of state concern, rather than merely a private dispute. U.S. asylum law, in contrast, has failed to express a parallel commitment to protecting domestic violence victims. In 2018, in Matter of A-B-, then-acting Attorney General Jeff Sessions invoked his referral authority to overturn precedent from 2014 that recognized domestic violence as an asylum-worthy form of persecution. In the process, A.G. Sessions characterized domestic violence as a private injury, rather than a public harm. This Note examines the scope of that decision and argues that the current lack of substantive asylum protections, combined with the Attorney General’s unrestricted referral authority, leaves domestic violence victims seeking asylum particularly vulnerable. Further, this Note proposes procedural reform to curb the Attorney General’s referral authority and promote a more fair and participatory system for asylum adjudication.


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6 Sep 2022
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  • Subject
    • Domestic Law

    • Immigration Law

    • International Law

  • Journal title
    • Boston College Law Review

  • Volume
    • 60

  • Issue
    • 7

  • Pagination
    • 2145

  • Date submitted

    6 September 2022