Center for Gender & Refugee Studies

The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS), founded at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1999, protects the fundamental human rights of individuals who flee persecution, with a special focus on women, children, and LGBT refugees. CGRS litigates impact asylum cases to advance the law, trains and mentors attorneys who represent asylum seekers and develops resources to support their cases, develops policy to improve U.S. immigration law and the immigration system for refugees and immigrants, and conducts in-country fact-finding on the root causes of the violence that compels people to flee their homes. Each year, CGRS attorneys serve as mentors and expert consultants and provide litigation resources for over 800 asylum cases and train nearly 3,000 attorneys on representing asylum seekers.

THE CASE: CGRS is co-counsel in Matter of R-P-, currently pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The case involves a Mam Maya woman from Guatemala who endured severe domestic violence in a relationship she was forced into at the age of 15. An immigration judge denied her asylum, despite finding that the abuse she suffered constitutes both persecution and torture, because he held that the abuse was not on account of a protected ground. On appeal, the Board of Immigration Appeals upheld the immigration judge’s decision. In March 2014, CGRS filed a request asking the Board to reconsider its dismissal of Ms. R-P‘s case and simultaneously appealed the Board’s decision to the Ninth Circuit. Among other points, the Center argued in both the motion and the appeal that the Board misapplied Ninth Circuit law on the standard for a particular social group when it required Ms. R-P-‘s group to be homogenous and narrow.

Matter of R-P- raises critical issues in asylum law concerning claims for women survivors of domestic violence and holds the potential to set precedent that could affect protections for women fleeing domestic and other gender-based violence. The funding provided by the Barbara McDowell and Gerald S. Hartman Foundation will support continued litigation of Matter of R-P- to obtain lasting relief for this asylum seeker as well as to cement protections for women survivors of domestic violence who flee to the U.S. for safe haven.

Contact: Lisa Frydman, Associate Director and Managing Attorney, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, 200 McAllister Street, San Francisco, CA 94102