Can I get asylum if my wife was raped as a message to me?

When the persecutor targets one person by harming another, it can be grounds for asylum in the U.S.

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Question

I am a citizen of Burundi, where I worked as a judge. My wife was raped by government officials who ordered her to give me the message that they disagreed with my decisions. I was not directly harmed. Now I am visiting the U.S., and wondering whether I can claim asylum here and avoid going back to this dangerous situation.

Answer

Rape and other serious sexual harm are always considered persecution. Harm to family members can be persecution if the harm is perpetrated specifically to target the asylum applicant.

The Immigration Judge or Asylum Officer who interviews you and makes a decision on your case will look at the motivation of the persecutor to determine whether harming your family member was a way to harm you, the asylum applicant.

The government officials who raped your wife specifically told her that they were harming her as a message to you. You could file a claim for asylum stating that you suffered harm from the knowledge that your wife was raped due to your political opinion. It is likely that a judge or asylum officer will find that the emotional harm you suffered as a result rises to the level of severity necessary to constitute persecution.

If your wife is also in the United States, you can add her as a dependent on your application for asylum. If you are granted asylum your wife will be granted as well. If your wife is not in the U.S., you can apply for her to join you after you are granted asylum.

Your wife may also have her own claim for asylum based on the rape. Since she was apparently raped on account of her membership in a particular social group (family members of those targeted for persecution can be considered a particular social group), she might be able to file her own asylum application.

If your wife does file her own application she can list you as a dependent. The Asylum Office or Executive Officer for Immigration Review (immigration court) will adjudicate both applications if you choose to each file a claim.

It is a good idea to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to determine which strategy will work best for you in this circumstance.

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