U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered immigration judges to stop granting
asylum to those claiming persecution for membership in a social group due to
domestic and gang violence. The ruling would block tens of thousands of
people, especially women, from seeking refuge in the United States.
The widely anticipated move overruled a 2016 Board of Immigration Appeals
decision which gave asylum to an El Salvadorian woman who fled her husband
on grounds of domestic abuse she suffered from her husband and law enforcement’s
lack of action to stop it. Session reopened the case for his review three
Asylum is granted on grounds of persecution for race, religion, nationality,
political affiliation, or membership of a social group. Many victims of
domestic and gang violence seek protection on grounds of the latter group.
The attorney general has the power to decide on issues which serve as binding
precedents for immigration judges to follow. In this instance, he used
a case involving a victim of domestic violence from El Salvador to rule
that survivors of such “private” crimes are not eligible for
asylum according to U.S. law.
“The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing
certain crimes — such as domestic violence or gang violence —
or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot
itself establish an asylum claim,” Sessions wrote in a 31-page decision.
Over the past two decades, many of the victims have been granted asylum
after fleeing Central American countries that offer little protection
to victims of domestic and gang violence. The majority of requests by
such victims have been successful due to several administrative rulings
and court cases during the Obama administration.
Sessions, along with other administration officials, believe the asylum
system has been abused for so many years. The cases can take years to
be resolved because of the backlog of immigration court cases and applicants
are typically released on bond while waiting for a hearing, which is known
as “catch and release.”
The attorney general’s ruling goes with the broader effort by the
Trump administration to restrict immigration and discourage asylum seekers
from coming to the United States. Sessions also recently enacted a “zero
tolerance” policy in which parents who illegally cross the border
with their children are being referred for criminal prosecution, instead
of being placed directly in deportation proceedings, resulting in thousands
of children being separated from their parents.
For more information about asylum claims,
Santa Barbara immigration attorney at
Appel & Morse today.