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Legal Alarmism and Gendered Violence in U.S. Asylum Law

Authors: Cynthia Gorman*, West Virginia University
Topics: Legal Geography, Human Rights, Migration
Keywords: Asylum, law, gender, violence
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

During his time as Attorney General, Jeff Sessions attempted to overturn asylum protections for women fleeing intimate partner abuse which had been considered established law. This paper examines the role of alarmism in these efforts to exert control over legal-discursive thresholds of political asylum in the US. Using the Matter of A-B- decision, this paper demonstrates how refugee definitions are often contested and changed in response to “floodgate fears”, a type of alarmist legal argumentation that invites speculation about the effects a particular juridical decision on future cases. Floodgate fears translate wider racist, nationalist fears of being overwhelmed by alien “others” into otherwise banal legal codes. Under the current presidential administration, floodgate fears have been used to “legislate from the executive branch,” and have played a key role in the Attorney General’s attempt to undermine and rescind protection for Central American women fleeing intimate partner violence.

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