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Dear Editor: released the following press statement today.

Time Is Running Out for Rodi Alvarado Peña, and over 100 other women refugees who seek our nation’s protection from gender-based abuses each year. Ms. Alvarado fled Guatemala and applied for asylum in the United States in 1995, after suffering ten years of horrific domestic abuse. Her husband raped her repeatedly, attempted to abort their second child by kicking her in the spine, dislocated her jaw, tried to cut her hands off with a machete, kicked her in the genitals, and broke windows with her head. Ms. Alvarado sought assistance from the Guatemalan police and the courts but was refused official protection. A U.S. Immigration Judge granted Ms. Alvarado asylum in 1996, finding that the abuse that she suffered, together with the government's unwillingness or inability to protect her, constituted persecution. But the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) appealed that decision, and in 1999, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) reversed the grant of asylum. In 2001, Attorney General Janet Reno vacated the BIA’s decision, issued proposed regulations that recognized gender-related persecution claims, and directed the BIA to re-decide Ms. Alvarado’s case again after the proposed regulations became final. Those regulations never became final, however. Now, on the eve of Homeland Security Department reorganization (March 1, 2003) when the Department of Justice will lose its authority over INS matters, Attorney General John Ashcroft appears poised to issue regulations that would restrict the scope of gender- related persecution claims and would reinstate the BIA decision in the Alvarado case, denying asylum to Ms. Alvarado. If he does, his actions will have devastating consequences for Ms. Alvarado, who will be deported back to her abuser, and to hundreds of other women refugees who have experienced such horrific abuses as gang rapes, forced prostitution, and honor killings. You can help! Visit today to send a free message to your legislators urging them to contact Attorney General Ashcroft immediately, and asking him to recognize gender-based persecution as a legitimate basis for asylum. The United States has a long tradition of offering safe haven to persons fleeing oppression, persecution and torture. This heritage is based on an inherent belief in human rights, and the right of individuals to be free from persecution. Please help ensure these rights for victims of gender-based violence by visiting now! Thanks for your support.

Other organizations in support of this campaign include: Amnesty International, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, Family Violence Prevention Fund, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, National Legal Aid and Defender Association, and NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. Please do not forward this message after March 1, 2003. By then it will be too late.

Irene Weiser

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