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Central American women are fleeing domestic violence amid a pandemic. Few find refuge in U.S.

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Central American women are fleeing domestic violence amid a pandemic. Few find refuge in U.S.

After four years of beatings, humiliation and sexual abuse, María de Jesús mustered the courage to leave the man who would punch her in the face for even changing her garments to transfer exterior, saying she may perhaps finest gawk fairly for him.

Then the death threats began.

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“You are going to by no means, ever be happy,” her ex-boyfriend instructed her on the cellular phone in December. “And when I find you, I will disappear you and your entire family.”

María de Jesús packed her bags and fled Guatemala Metropolis along with her 11-year-archaic son on a frigid evening weeks later. She paid a smuggler and trekked north to the U.S.-Mexico border, where she hoped the Biden administration, promising a more humanitarian approach toward immigrants, would welcome a domestic violence survivor savor herself into the country.

“The categorical solution was to be far away where I didn’t really feel scared every day,” said María de Jesús, 39, who, out of security considerations, spoke on the situation that her last name now not be aged.

She is among scores of Central American women who — after fleeing brutal violence from boyfriends, spouses and others in one in every of the arena’s most dangerous regions for women — have now not too lengthy ago arrived at the southern U.S. border finest to approach across an uphill battle to be let in.

Although President Biden rapid signed several executive orders to roll back some of President Donald Trump’s most draconian insurance policies — including one that sent asylum seekers back to Mexico to await their court hearings — a selection of different restrictive measures and rulings that immediately affect domestic violence survivors remain in place.

Biden has ordered a evaluation of the overall asylum gadget to determine whether authorities present protection to those fleeing domestic or gang violence “in a manner per international standards.” Vice President Harris visited Central America this past week, vowing to commit millions of dollars to address the root causes of migration whereas also delivering a stern message: Don’t approach.

“You’re going to be grew to develop into back,” she warned.

These phrases aloof may finish dinky to dissuade thousands of women who remain at chance in a station with deeply rooted machismo, entrenched corruption and a weak rule of law. Violence against women increased in many parts of Latin America during the pandemic, as products and companies such as shelters shut down and women were forced to stay with their aggressors during lockdowns, women’s rights teams and international organizations say.

“It was a rigidity-cooker stress where there was preexisting violence and then no escape route,” said Meghan López, vice president for Latin America at the International Rescue Committee, which works with organizations in the station.

Women savor María de Jesús who are already at the border, meanwhile, are in limbo. She is living at a migrant safe haven in Tijuana, anxiously waiting for her humanitarian parole request to be reviewed.

“If they sing it, I have nowhere to transfer and no idea what to finish,” she said in an interview with The Washington Post.

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Safety said in a statement to The Post that the agency is working to rebuild a “decimated” immigration gadget for one that “treats individuals more humanely and retains families together.”

“We are moving without warning to rebuild, nevertheless it’s going to take time,” the spokesperson said.

Central America, the station from which a lot of the women seeking asylum in the United States are fleeing, has the ideal violent death rates for women in the arena, according to data serene by the Small Arms Survey, which tracks violence globally.

Data gathered by the International Rescue Committee demonstrate that in the fall of 2020, requests from across the station for women’s products and companies and protection information doubled.

But in the midst of a heated debate in the United States over the dependable way to answer to the disaster, the odyssey of women fleeing violence, and domestic abuse in particular, has regularly been overpassed.

Last month, a coalition of immigration advocacy teams, including the Heart for Gender and Refugee Research at the College of California at San Francisco, sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and entreated him to restore protections for women and families fleeing persecution and torture.

Karen Musalo, the heart’s director, said a few of these “backwards” rulings “take us back to the “Dark Ages” in terms of women’s rights. She pointed to a 2018 resolution by Attorney General Jeff Classes that established that “generally” claims “pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will now not qualify for asylum.”

The case involved a Salvadoran woman, known as AB, who said she had been sexually, emotionally and physically abused by her husband for years, reversing an appeals court ruling that came across her eligible for asylum.

“It created an avenue for judges or asylum granters who were already now not inclined to granting it to have the basis to finish it and disregard individual circumstances,” said Musalo, who was also a defense layer on the AB case.

The case became a image of an administration that slammed its doors and grew to develop into away scores of immigrants who were now not finest fleeing gang violence, poverty and climate devastation but also, in the case of many women, brutal aggression from their partners in countries where domestic abuse is pervasive.

Asylum seekers interviewed by The Post say they sought protection in their very fill countries and made up our minds to leave as a last resort, disputing criticism that they migrate to the United States fully in search of greater economic alternatives.

Such was the case for women savor AB, who spoke on the situation that she be identified finest by her initials for fear of reprisal from immigration authorities. She said she endured years of violence and sexual assault from her ex-husband and left El Salvador in 2014 after multiple failed attempts to escape his wrath by moving houses and cities.

“I didn’t know anything about this country. I honest knew it was a faraway place where individuals really feel safe,” the 50-year-archaic Salvadoran said in a contemporary interview. “Staying meant dying.”

At the side of her case aloof pending eight years after she first crossed the border, AB mirrored on the grueling strategy of her quest for defense.

“This wait has been so sad and aggravating,” she said. “I have traveled to all the courts, done everything I have been asked to demonstrate that I failed to approach here to steal anyone’s job or food, that I came here because I was trying to save myself.”

Being separated from her three teenagers, whom she left behind after her husband threatened her with a handgun, has been the greatest torment, she said.

“If I knew everything that was going to happen, maybe I would have most popular to die,” she said in tears.

Earlier than the Trump administration and Classes’s resolution, survivors of domestic violence had a lesser threshold to beat and their cases regularly prevailed when they proved that their countries lack the assets or willingness to present them protection from their abusers, specialists say.

“Now individuals are now not even afforded that stage of process and are honest being tossed away,” said Margaret Cargioli, an attorney with the Immigrant Defenders Law Heart, a social justice law firm in California.

While specialists argue the Classes ruling has created an additional hurdle for domestic violence victims, it failed to rule out protection utterly, as these cases are made up our minds on a case-by-case basis by immigration court judges.

Court data finish now not file the grounds for asylum claims, making it complicated to glean a quantifiable sense of how these insurance policies have impacted immigration court rulings on domestic violence cases.

Amid the pandemic and the original surge of immigrants at the border, Biden has continued one in every of essentially the most controversial Trump insurance policies, known as Title 42, which indefinitely closed the border to “nonessential” travel, citing emergency health considerations resulting from the pandemic.

While technically immigrants at the southern border can aloof see protection beneath U.S. law, the explain has translated into approximately 700,000 rapid expulsions — including families and unaccompanied minors — since March of last year, without due process or access to asylum, according to immigration advocacy teams and specialists.

Cargioli said the restrictions are doing more harm than fair.

“If Title 42 has to finish with health safety, how can a gadget that is supposed to save lives instead set aside them in pain?” she asked. “It is illogical.”

Only a small quantity have been allowed into the country for humanitarian reasons that can include health considerations or being at imminent harm or chance of torture, according to immigration advocates.

Sitting in a resort in San Diego, 19-year-archaic Rosie from Honduras remembered the many failed attempts to escape her ex-boyfriend’s condominium, where he saved her captive, raped her and forced her to slash back any contact along with her family or guests, she instructed The Post in a contemporary interview.

If she managed to sneak out of the condominium, he would drag her by her hair thru the dirt roads back inside, said Rosie, who spoke on the situation that her last name now not be aged.

The lope to the United States was traumatic: Rosie said she was sexually assaulted in Guatemala as she tried to make her way north.

More than two months after being apprehended at the border and deported to Mexico, she was temporarily allowed in on May 10 beneath a humanitarian parole, said Cargioli, who’s representing her case.

Now in the United States, she said she dreams of becoming a physician.

“I felt I may perhaps breathe for a minute and finally stop feeling scared all the time,” she said, sobbing.

She now faces a potentially years-lengthy wait for her case to be resolved and may perhaps aloof be denied protection, which retains her awake at evening.

Advocates say the vast majority of domestic violence victims arriving at the border have almost no chance of gaining protection whereas restrictions are aloof in place.

Most finish up staying in Mexico in cramped tent cities or shelters, some of them falling prey to organized crime teams or immigrant smugglers. Others finish up going back to the dangers they are trying to escape.

In Tijuana, María de Jesús anxiously waits to find out what will happen along with her humanitarian parole request, which would allow her to await her asylum process in Indiana, where her sister lives.

She can’t fathom going back to Guatemala, aloof traumatized by the ex-boyfriend who aged to create fake Facebook profiles to glean information on her whereabouts.

“For see you later, I believed violence was my destiny,” she said. “I honest hope that I am rotten.”

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Central American women are fleeing domestic violence amid a pandemic. Few find refuge in U.S.