·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

News & Politics

A.G. Sessions Makes Seeking Asylum for Victims of Domestic Violence More Difficult

— June 11, 2018

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed a ruling that will make seeking asylum on American soil more difficult for victims of domestic violence.

The 31-page decision, reports POLITICO, tightens the criteria for victims of ‘private crime’ attempting to seek asylum in the United States—along with restrictions on men and women suffering from domestic abuse, the blockade will also affect children fleeing from gang violence in Mexico and Central America.

“Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum,” said Sessions.

Opponents of the administration and its hardline immigration policy have already deemed the move as unusually cruel.

However, Sessions’ opinion to curtail migration is only the latest endeavor backed by Washington and the White House. Last month, the attorney general announced a new initiative to charge every undocumented alien with a federal offense. The Justice Department dispatched hundreds of judges and prosecutors to border states to bolster already-beleaguered immigration courts.

President Trump, writes POLITICO, has been an outspoken critic of American immigration law. Calling legislation weak, the chief executive alleges that the asylum system is rife with migrant-enabling ‘loopholes.’

President Trump has taken his own steps to curb immigration–legal and illegal alike–including the rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program last September. Image via Flickr/user:Michael Vadon. (CCA-BY-2.0)

Sessions’ critics have blasted the attorney general for personally intervening in cases brought before the Board of Immigration Appeals. Considering the attorney general’s oft-outspoken stance on immigration issues, his opponents claim he can’t make determinations without bias.

“If policy statements about immigration-related issues were a basis for disqualification, then no attorney general could fulfill his or her statutory obligations to review decisions of the Board,” Sessions wrote in a Monday ruling.

According to POLITICO, the ruling on a case entitled “Matter of A-B” addresses ‘whether a person who is the victim of private criminal activity qualifies as a member of a “particular social group” eligible for asylum in the U.S.’

Four years ago, the Board of Immigration Appeals opined that “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship” constitute members of a particular social group, thus making them eligible to apply for asylum.

Sessions took issue with that ruling Monday, claiming it lacks the ‘rigorous analysis’ necessary to create and overwrite existing policy.

“There mere fact that a country may have problems policing certain crimes effectively—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,” wrote Sessions.

The attorney general attempted to refute the grounds upon which the 2014 decision had been, too, by criticizing source material referring to a ‘culture of machismo’ in Guatemala.

The decision, says the Virginia-based Tahirih Justice Center, could pose dangerous consequences for women fleeing violence and persecution in Guatemala and abroad.

“Our clients and many women like them may lose their cases because of this, which could send them home to face violence or death,” said the group in a statement. “For them, and for our own conscience, we are prepared to fight.”

Guatemala—a small nation bordering Mexico and several Central American countries—has one of the highest intentional homicide rates in the world. Killings of women have skyrocketed in recent years, with a 2016 report estimating that incidences of femicide occur at a rate of roughly 60 per month.


Sessions moves to block asylum for most victims of domestic, gang violence

UN Global Study on Homicide

Women’s Murderers Evade Justice as Femicide Surges in Guatemala

Join the conversation!