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Surviving Deterrence: How US asylum deterrence policies normalize gender-based violence

This joint report by Oxfam and the Tahirih Justice Center documents how migrants and asylum seekers experience gender-based harm as a consequence of deterrence-driven US asylum policies. First, it finds that US asylum deterrence policies foster conditions that cause gender-based violence (GBV) to proliferate at the US-Mexico border. Second, it finds that the US asylum process is woefully trauma-uninformed and systemically disadvantages and re-traumatizes survivors of GBV who are ultimately able to apply for relief. The report concludes that by choosing a deterrence-based approach to asylum, the US is complicit in systemically harming and devaluing the lives of women, girls, and LGBTQI+ individuals desperately seeking access to the asylum process as enshrined in US law. These policies, moreover, normalize GBV as an inevitable consequence of pursuing safe haven in the US.

As such, the US is repudiating its legal and moral obligation to protect the rights and respect the dignity of migrants. To rectify these harms, the US must fully abandon its punitive, deterrence-based approach to asylum in favor of one that honors the humanity of all. The report details concrete steps that the US government can take at the executive and congressional levels to begin to realize such a transformation and to mitigate the harm that current US policies engender.


Sara Duvisac, Irena Sullivan


Oxfam America, Tahirih Justice Center

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