The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Trump administration over its decision to rescind asylum protections for victims of gang violence and domestic abuse.
POLITICO reports that the organization is arguing against an administration policy put forward by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Under Sessions, the Justice Department and other federal agencies have “generally” denied such applications.
“This is a naked attempt by the Trump administration to eviscerate our country’s asylum protections,” said Jennifer Chang Newell, managing attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “It’s clear the administration’s goal is to deny and deport as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.”
Sessions overturned existing Obama-era policy that gave refuge to foreign nationals with ‘credible’ claims of domestic abuse. He also questioned whether victims of gang violence constitute a “particular social group” for the purpose of filing applications for asylum.
Responding to the ACLU’s suit on Tuesday, the Justice Department defended its decisions.
“Our nation’s immigration laws provide for asylum to be granted to individuals who have been persecuted, or have a well-founded fear of persecution, on account of their membership in a “particular social group,” but most victims of personal crimes do not fit this definition—no matter how vile and reprehensible the crime perpetrated against them,” an agency spokesperson said. “The Department of Justice remains committed to reducing violence against women and enforcing laws against domestic violence, both in the United States and around the world.”
Jeff Sessions has repeatedly attacked the integrity of asylum seekers, but he’s actually the one gaming the system.
Here's how his new policies illegally gut asylum protections for immigrants fleeing domestic violence and gang brutality: pic.twitter.com/EU2NMRxuJG
— ACLU (@ACLU) August 7, 2018
Changes in attitude toward asylum-seekers have accompanied the Trump administration’s near-universal push to limit immigration overall. Last year, the president formally rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which granted individuals who came to the United States illegally as children the opportunity to receive renewable work and residency permits.
In May, Attorney General Sessions launched a “zero-tolerance” approach to combating illegal immigration. Sessions directed prosecutors to refer cases of unlawful entry to criminal courts, leading to the detention of thousands of migrants and asylum-seekers.
The initiative backfired when media and government sources revealed that young children were being forcibly separated from their parents, many of whom were awaiting arraignment in criminal courts.
The American Civil Liberties Union has played a critical role in suing the administration over its approach toward immigration, winning victories for ‘Dreamers’ and torn-apart families.
Now, the ACLU is representing a diverse group of plaintiffs who ‘fled their home countries after facing sexual and physical violence, including sexual abuse, beatings, shootings, death threats and the murder of family members.’ POLITICO writes that several complainants were deported after their stories were documented by government officials.
One woman, named ‘Mina’ in the ACLU suit, says she received death threats from drug cartels after relatives helped a family friend escape from an attempt on his life. Her father-in-law was murdered in retaliation, and she was beaten “so badly that she could not walk the next day.” The criminals also threatened to rape and mutilate her if she didn’t leave her locality.
“The Trump administration is violating U.S. immigration law, international refugee law, and our Constitution,” said Eunice Lee, co-legal director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, which joined the ACLU in its suit against Washington.
“It’s putting the lives of our plaintiffs and thousands of asylum seekers in grave danger,” Lee said.