Trump administration drops asylum for domestic violence

Cheryl Sanders
June 12, 2018

In a brutal confirmation of the Trump administration's callousness toward the safety or welfare of people fleeing awful situations and trying to enter the U.S., Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered immigration judges to stop granting asylum to people who are victims of gang violence or domestic abuse. Sessions wrote Monday that a gang's victims have not necessarily "been targeted "on account of" their membership" in a social group just because the gang harassed a certain geographical area. "What this means in practical terms is that the United States is turning its back on our commitment to never again send people back to a country where their life is at risk", she says in an email. Taking a tough stance on immigration has "become a political tool for the Trump administration to play to a base that's very anti-immigrant and anti-refugee", said Karen Musalo, professor of law at the U.C. Hastings College of the Law and co-counsel in the 2016 case Matter of A-B, the case Sessions reopened to make Monday's move. The AG's ruling serves as a binding precedent for immigration judges.

The government does not say how many asylum claims are for domestic or gang violence but their advocates said there could be tens of thousands of domestic violence cases in the current immigration court backlog.

Illegal border crossers routinely claim they entered the United States to escape persecution, after which they are released with a promise to show up at a scheduled court hearing on their asylum claims, Sessions explained.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers remarks at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund's 30th annual candlelight vigil in Washington, U.S., May 13, 2018.

The woman, who is only identified by her initials, had won an appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals to overturn a lower immigration court judge´s denial of her asylum petition.

In May, Sessions announced a stricter position on separating parents and children who attempt to cross the border illegally, in part to discourage people from attempting to seek asylum, according to Gilman.

Last month, Sessions revoked immigration judges' broad authority to close cases through a process known as administrative closure after referring a different case to himself.

Domestic violence is a "particularly hard crime to prevent and prosecute, even in the United States", Sessions wrote, but its prevalence in El Salvador doesn't mean that its government was unwilling or unable to protect victims any less so than the United States.

"In what world does the United States turn its back on people who have suffered persecution, trauma and extreme distress from domestic or gang violence?"

"We've spoken with Ms. A.B. herself, and she's incredibly fearful as you can imagine", Bookey said. They argue these women deserve asylum because they're persecuted by their husbands and ignored by their own governments.

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