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Sessions Restricts Domestic and Gang Violence from Asylum Claims


Immigration judges must now stop granting asylum to those claiming persecution for membership in a social group due to domestic and gang violence, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered.

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 months ago.

Persecution for race, nationality, religion, politics, or membership of a social group. The latter group is often sought by those involved in domestic and gang violence.

“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 some administrative rulings and court cases when Barack Obama was president.

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, contact our Santa Barbara immigration attorney at Appel & Morse today.

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