Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
Global | By Shelia Dennis

Attorney General Sessions limits asylum for domestic violence victims

Attorney General Sessions limits asylum for domestic violence victims

The decision serves the biggest blow to women, many of whom flee Central America escaping domestic abuse and violence from gang members in their communities.

Michelle Brané, director of the Women's Refugee Commission's Migrant Rights and Justice program headquartered in NY, said, "Attorney General Sessions' decision to limit the reasons why people can claim asylum is a devastating blow to families who come to our country seeking protection and safety". She appealed and, in 2016, the board ruled in her favor, saying it was clear that the Salvadoran government was unable to protect her even after she moved to another part of the country. Sessions reopened the case for his review in March as the administration stepped up criticism of asylum practices.

In the law's current interpretation, foreign nationals can apply for US asylum if they claim persecution or fear because of race, religion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group or political viewpoint, the report said.

"This is not just about domestic violence, or El Salvador, or gangs", she said.

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"By shutting down most claims of persecution at the hands of criminal gangs and/or intimate partners, Sessions is demonstrating his contempt for immigrants and women", the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said in a statement on Monday.

"No country provides its citizens with complete security from private criminal activity, and ideal protection is not required", he wrote. "This decision will provide more clarity for you". Bookey represented the Salvadoran woman in the case before the attorney general.

But in the ruling, Sessions said such cases would be less common going forward. She anticipates other cases in the pipeline may reach the appeals court first.

Sessions' decision drew immediate rebukes from dozens of immigration rights advocate groups and lawyers.

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"For reasons understood only by himself, the Attorney General today erased an important legal development that was universally agreed to be correct", they wrote. Some said the decision could have wide-ranging impacts on immigrants fleeing gang violence and gender-based violence, including female genital cutting or honor killings. Sessions issued this decision under the precedent that domestic violence is a "private" matter and does not make anyone eligible for asylum in the U.S.

And immigration courts overall face a backlog of about 700,000 cases of all types.

An administration official said last month that the backlog of asylum cases topped 300,000, almost half the total backlog. The month after President Donald Trump's inauguration-and after Trump's executive order to suspend the United States refugee program-the Department of Homeland Security made it harder for asylum seekers arriving at the border to pass an initial screening.

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