Ashcroft Opts Out of Aiding Guatemalan Asylum Seeker

US Attorney General John Ashcroft will neither grant nor deny asylum to a Guatemalan woman who fled her country after ten years of abuse at the hands of her husband, including being raped, whipped with electrical cords, and threatened with death. Rodi Alvarado Pena, whose case was taken by Ashcroft two years ago, will have to wait again because Ashcroft is leaving office without making a decision on her fate, reports the Associated Press.

According to the Associated Press, women’s rights and immigration rights advocates hoped that Alvarado’s case would have led to a change in current US policy regarding asylum cases filed by victims of domestic violence. Ashcroft had blocked a proposal by former Attorney General Janet Reno that would have allowed given victims of domestic violence grounds to seek asylum, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Advocates are continuing to urge the department of Homeland Security to issue guidelines that will regard gender-based persecution as a legitimate basis for asylum.

The Department of Homeland Security has recommended that Alvarado be granted asylum, reports the Associated Press, and Department spokesperson Bill Strassberger said that if Alvarado is denied asylum, the Department “will not pursue her removal from the United States.” However, without asylum status, Alvarado cannot be reunited with her children, who are still in Guatemala.

“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 Rodi Alvarado and other women who are seeking to escape gender-based violence,” said Esta Soler, president of the Family Violence Prevention Fund.

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Associated Press 1/21/05; San Francisco Chronicle 1/22/05; Feminist Daily News Wire 3/6/03; Family Violence Prevention Fund 1/21/05

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