Browsing Category: House

Domestic Violence and Asylum

[Found this in 2017 and am posting because I am cleaning out my drafts. Thankfully my writing has improved but sad that I could write every word about domestic violence in the U.S. 8 years later.]
So, there has been a lot of talk about this new bill that allows women who are the victims of severe physical and sexual abuse to apply for asylum in the US.

But who are these asylum laws going to benefit? Are they going to help the women in the village I am from, who can barely read and write English to get asylum in America? Are they going to help the women in Africa who have no money, property or clothing to their name get to America? Are they going to help women who are in China, Thailand, Eastern Europe or from anywhere in the world?

Anyone who has worked with domestic violence victims or with asylum proceedings in general should understand the crippling paralyzation that can come when you don’t have access.

According to a New York Times article, “A petitioner would have to demonstrate to a judge that domestic violence was widely tolerated by society and government in her country, that women were viewed as subordinate to men and that she had no place within its borders to find a safe haven.”

If we want to make progressive policy that combats violence against women then we need to start with tougher standards against domestic violence in our own country to set an example and model for the rest of the world. How do we offer the hand of asylum to battered women overseas while we only slap the wrist of the batterer in America?

The reality is that most women in America who are being abused never seek help. They are living in every neighborhood in every city of America.

The poster case that is being sited for the passage of this bill is a Mexican woman who said she would likely be murdered by her common law husband in Mexico if she were sent back to her homeland. In court documents, the woman claimed she had been repeatedly raped at gunpoint by her husband, and threatened to be burnt alive when he found out that she was pregnant.

Just today I read in the paper the story of a man from Utah who repeatedly stabbed his wife his wife to death.

The reality is that most immigrant women who are already in America and are being abused have no way out.

There will certainly be success stories that are born of this bill. I want to say that it is better than nothing, but as I continue to read the commentary surrounding it, I become disheartened that it is merely another prop to superficially improve the United State’s status in the global community. At best it only seems to be a band-aid solution to the epidemic of violence against women in the world.

Some proponents say it is not so much the bill itself that should be celebrated but an indication that the tides of immigration ideology are turning.

Under American asylum law, individuals seeking refugee status must demonstrate a fear of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or “membership in a particular social group.”

I fear the problem with classifying physical and sexual abuse victims as a social class is that it is such a broad term. My fear is not based on the premise that hoards of people will now be coming into the country. As one advocate said: “Anyone who believes such a thing has never filed for asylum,” Instead, I am afraid the courts will set such a high burden of proof for meeting this standard that the asylum protection will be no protection at all.

If the treatment of FGM asylum seekers is any indication, this new bill does not really offer a significant remedy in any sense of the word.

In the US 4.8 million women are physically assaulted and raped by intimate partners. This statistic doesn’t even account for date, family and other violence.

At the end of the day, it’s great that foreign women who are facing physical and sexual persecution abroad can have a chance to seek asylum here. But it leaves the question, where are the millions of American women who suffer physical and sexual persecution supposed to seek asylum?

 

Bravery

“The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to Earth.” – The Awakening

And more, much more than this, I did it my way


If you want to know the state of a nation’s economy, walk into your public library on a weekday afternoon. If it is anything like Canton, MI you will find it full of middle-aged people on the computers, browsing the aisles or just passing the time flipping magazines. The parking lot is full and in some strange way, it feels like you are at a carnival.

Michigan has the highest unemployment in the nation but still I see people smiling, opening doors and generally seeming ok. Despite the dismal reports, I am optimistic that the economy is improving. Reasons that my small world has led me to this conclusion: 


-My law firm has started sending us presents again. This gives me hope. And a sugar rush.
– I have seen people shopping in the non-sale sections at shopping malls. In grocery stores, the carts are looking more full and I notice non-essentials such as vegetables packed along with the essentials like Twinkies. 
-Restaurants are packed. If people are eating out, that means they can still afford to and that the teenagers of America still have jobs and teenagers spend all their money!

You might be one to look at Goldman Sachs recent rebound and get excited but such market trends are highly suspect. Instead, just take a look at your neighbors and the average person. Once they are convinced that this country is on the upswing, this country will be on the upswing. 

But moving on to more exciting topics. All this recent time spent at the public library takes me down memory lane…
I love to read. I have always loved to read. My best memories from my childhood are sitting in a big stuffed pink bunny rabbit with a pile of ten books next to me and reading until my parents dragged me away. I used to even read my book while riding on my bike around the neighborhood. I was hooked. There were the Goosebump books, the Sweet Valley Twins, Boxcar Children and the Babysitters Club. There was Ramona Quimby and a slew of other imaginary characters. Anais Nin said “I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live.” I completely agree but when we are young, I think sometimes we read to escape to a world in which we can live.

Do you remember the summer reading programs at the library when you were a kid? I used to get so excited about them. I lived for the freebies they gave. And they gave them for reading!!! What a fantasy world we lived in. I coveted my bouncy ball or ice cream gift certificate. If you read the maximum amount of books you might be so lucky as to get a free book! I never had my own books as a kid and when I got one it was like a secret treasure. 

Welcome to 2009. Now days the library is giving out prizes like WII systems, iPod touches and a host of other techie toys that will assure kids are in front of the tv or lost in a set of head phones. It seems a bit counter intuitive but that didn’t stop me from inquiring about the age limit for the program. Teens, you say? How about 19-year-olds? (Hey! I could pass…)

Poetry

My friend Jesse recently wrote me an email in which he mentioned, “I wonder sometimes if we’ll ever know how many poems have been written about us by people we didn’t even know were writing poems about us.” Eureka! I love this thought.

When I was in Turkey I would often see people caught up in trying to get just the right shot of the fishermen on the bridge or of the sunset going down over the Bosphorus. But while they were looking at that little screen they would miss out on so many things going around them. I want to be aware of the world around me. I want to be in touch with other people so I may never miss the person writing poems about me.

You may feel you’re done, but there’s no such thing

My mom called me at 4:20 today. Being in the library I let the call go to voicemail. Soon there was that little light on the phone that indicates there is a new voicemail. A certain nagging feeling made me check the message even though I usually leave voicemails unchecked for weeks at a time.
 
The message began with my mom saying, “Sumeera, I have some bad news.” Immediately, the panic struck, I thought of my dad, my sister and my brother. I thought about my numerous cousins, many of them young and prone to accidents. And as my mind tends to do, I ran through every worst case scenario in that millisecond. I could feel my heart in the bottom of my feet. 
 
But it wasn’t anything like that. Instead, my mom told me that our neighbors house burned to the ground. And there was another type of sinking feeling. We knew that house well. For years, when my family went on our evening walks or even just stepped outside, we used to see it. It was a magnificent house with a wrap around deck, huge half circle staircase that led up to beautiful double doors. It had a little walkway the led up to the water and a perfectly manicured backyard. It was definitely one of my favorite houses and I often looked at it with longong, hoping to one day live in a house just like that.
 
But this house always seemed cursed. Over the years it would go on sale again and again. As other neighbors stayed in place, this house perpetually had a for sale sign. As soon as someone had moved in, they were moving out. My parents described the inside as glorious as the outside. It was perfectly decorated. The architecture was something to talk about. But still, no one stayed there for long.
 
When I talked ot my mom, the first thing I thought to ask was, “Were they crying?” My mom responded, “How can you cry when there are hundreds of people standing around you?” I can’t imagine the grief you must feel to see almost all the things you have in this world gone in minutes like that. I can’t imagine how invasive and exposed you must feel under that big sky as there are firefighters, reporters, policemen and neighbors standing all around and all you can see is your life crumbled before you. But my mom told me that eventually the tears did come, even the father broke down.  
 
They had left something in the microwave as they ran out to CVS to pick up something. That one small choice. To have a snack. To have something heated up when they returned. Maybe they forgot that it was in the microwave. Maybe they just hit an extra zero when setting the time. Maybe they thought of something someone had said to them and they were distracted for a second. Maybe that choice will haunt them for the rest of their life.
 
It isn’t fair.
 
It is a small moment. It is an honest mistake. It is a giant, giant regret. But it doens’t matter. And that is all there is to it. Some days, that is all there is to it.
 
Please keep this family in your prayers and good thoughts. May God make this trial easy for them and make something beautiful be born from it. Ameen.