St. Mary's Law Journal


On March 23, 1994, in In re Oluloro, Immigration Judge Kendall Warren’s decision indicated the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) should consider human rights abuses directed at women. The overriding concern was the possibility that two young U.S. girls would suffer female genital mutilation (FGM) if the INS deported their mother to Nigeria. In reaching the decision to suspend the mother’s deportation, Judge Warren condemned FGM as “cruel and serv[ing] no known medical purpose.” Judge Warren ruled the practice presented an extreme hardship for the girls. Unfortunately, the court’s ruling has no precedential value because the INS did not appeal the decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The decision, however, offers some hope and guidance to other alien parents seeking to protect their daughters from FGM and similar atrocities. As U.S. citizens, the Oluloro children are not deportable, but their mother was. These young girls escaped a most unusual ordeal because of the extreme hardship it would have created in their lives. Not all children who face severe physical or mental torture in another country have parents who satisfy the requirements for suspension of deportation. The Oluloro case focused attention on two weaknesses plaguing the immigration system: (1) failure to recognize some women experience oppression because of their gender, and (2) failure to acknowledge children also suffer because of this persecution. Currently, no statute, regulation, or court interpretation allows the INS to grant asylum or withholding of deportation to a mother based on her fear of the persecution her children are likely to endure. Asylum must be available to deportable parents who, while not fearful of persecution for themselves, can demonstrate their children's physical well-being is at risk because of cultural traditions or violence.


St. Mary's University School of Law