People For the American Way

Trump Judge Finds Evidence of Repeated Rape and Incest Insufficient to Grant Asylum: Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears

News and Analysis
Trump Judge Finds Evidence of Repeated Rape and Incest Insufficient to Grant Asylum: Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears

Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears” is a blog series documenting the harmful impact of President Trump’s judges on Americans’ rights and liberties.

In October 2019, Trump Eleventh Circuit judge Kevin Newsom cast the deciding vote affirming the denial of asylum despite a woman’s years of rape and incest by her father, grandfather and subsequently her cousin’s husband with no action by her government. The case is Alvizuriz-Lorenzo v. U.S.

Zury Alvizuriz-Lorenzo, a native of Guatemala, sought asylum in the United States. From the age of nine through 21, she was raped and sexually abused by her grandfather and father. She was also raped by her cousin’s husband and became pregnant with his child. During her hearing, Lorenzo claimed that in Guatemala, police do not investigate when women report their rapes, especially if they are raped by family members. She also said that “girls and young women in Guatemala cannot leave their family due to their age or economic condition.”

To be granted asylum, a person must show that they have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. At her hearing before the immigration judge (IJ), as proof of domestic violence, rape and violence, Lorenzo submitted a Human Rights report on Guatemala, an Amnesty International report on Guatemala, a Human Rights Watch report on Guatemala and articles describing the nature of violence against women in Guatemala. She even presented an affidavit from a Guatemalan police officer that indicated that women who are victims of sexual crimes refuse to file claims because the Guatemalan justice system psychologically revictimizes the victims instead of providing justice.

But the IJ denied Lorenzo’s asylum claim. She appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and the BIA denied her claim as well. She then filed a petition with the Eleventh Circuit.

The majority, including Judge Newsom, affirmed the IJ and BIA decisions, concluding that Lorenzo did not sufficiently prove that she was a member of a particular social group for purposes of receiving asylum.

Judge Charles Wilson strongly disagreed. He argued that Guatemala’s lack of prosecution for intrafamily violence against women and the record of evidence Lorenzo provided compels a finding that she suffered persecution on account of her membership in a particular social group. Judge Newsom instead ignored the wealth of evidence, leaving Lorenzo without recourse to distance herself from the family members that have abused her.