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CLINTON, BROWNBACK LEAD BIPARTISAN PLEA FOR PROTECTION OF WOMEN REFUGEES

In a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton(D-NY, Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) and a bipartisan group of their colleagues ave called on him to support rules aimed at protecting women refugees in the United States who seek asylum here to escape gender-based abuse. The Senators point, in particular, to the case of Rodi Alvarado, a Guatemalan woman who fled to the United Sates in 1995 after suffering years of horrific abuse at the hands of her husband.

"Asylum can afford an important tool to protect women who suffer human rights violations., the Senators wrote. In a brief filed in the Alvarado case, the Department of Homeland Security recognized that US asylum law can and should protect women and girls from abuse such as honor killings, domestic violence, trafficking, sexual slavery and rape. The bipartisan group of senators are asking that the Attorney General resolve this important issue in line with the recommendation submitted by DHS.

Rodi Alvarado was granted asylum shortly after she arrived in the United States but that was overturned by the Board of Immigration Appeals in 1999. In 2000, then-Attorney General Janet Reno intervened by calling for regulations that would secure asylum for Alvarado. Last year, however, Attorney General Ashcroft indicated that he would make his own decision in the case putting Alvarado in limbo. The precedent set in Ms. Alvarado's case has led to asylum claims of women and children being denied on narrow legal arguments that the Department of Homeland Security has now itself rejected as being without basis under US asylum law.

"We are urging the Attorney General to protect Rodi Alvarado and other women like her, just as he would protect people who flee to the United States to escape political violence and other forms of deadly repression," Senator Clinton said.

Senator Browenback said, "The Department of Homeland Security rightly recognizes that women ad girls face unique forms of persecution that deserve protection under U.S. asylum law. We hope that the Attorney General's decision in the Rodi Alvarado case will reflect that conclusion and reaffirm America's commitment to protecting the world's most vulnerable people."

Addressing critics' concerns that regulations offering asylum based on gender-related violence would lead to a a flood of new refugees, the Senators' letter points out that Canada has had such regulations since 1993. "Canadian government data reveals that such claims consistently constitute only a tiny fraction of the overall asylum claims, never more than two percent of the total," the letter states.

As Attorney General Ashcroft stated in a January order in the Alvarado case. "the respondent's application for asylum has been pending for several years, and it is important to move toward a resolution of the legal issues involved." Attorney General Ashcroft is free to decide the matter at any time.



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