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Judge Upends Asylum Restrictions for Migrants Fleeing Gang Violence, Abuse

— December 19, 2018

On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that the Trump administration’s attempts to block immigrants from citing gang violence and domestic abuse as grounds for asylum violated U.S. law.

The ruling, writes USA Today, is the second major judicial rebuke to the White House’s attempts to stymie asylum claims in recent months.

The latest blow hearkens back to the office of now-departed Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In June, Sessions announced new rules limiting who can and cannot qualify for asylum. The regulations required that officials deny asylum claims to persons suffering from domestic abuse or gang violence and immediately initiate deportation proceedings.

According to USA Today, attorneys filed lawsuits on behalf of a dozen foreign nationals facing deportation under Sessions’ guidelines. Immigration advocates called the rules an ‘evisceration of asylum protections for the most vulnerable immigrants fleeing horrific persecution.’

Limiting such asylum claims was an obvious attempt to curb the flow of migrants and asylum-seekers from Central America. Countries like Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are at the epicenter of the region’s gang crisis, facing some of the highest homicide rates in the world. Ordinary people are often forced to cooperate with gangs in the face of intimidation, extortion and threats. Refusal is often met with violence, ranging from simple assault to homicide and rape.

Writing in Wednesday’s ruling, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan issued a permanent injunction against Session’s rules. The decision affects guidelines enacted by the departments of Homeland Security and Justice.

Sullivan said that stripping victims of criminal enterprise and domestic violence Is a clear “violation of the immigrant laws,” ordering an immediate reversal.

A 2014 image of Donald Trump. President Trump has continued to make immigration a central platform for his presidency. Image from Flickr via Wikimedia Commons/user:Gage Skidmore. (CCA-BY-2.0).

“Many of these policies are inconsistent with the intent of Congress as articulated in the (Immigration and Nationality Act),” Sullivan wrote. “And because it is the will of Congress—not the whims of the Executive—that determines the standard for expedited removal, the Court finds that those policies are unlawful.”

Sullivan’s ruling offered a powerful rebuke to the White House’s anti-immigration rhetoric, ordering the Trump administration to bring back any foreign nationals who’d had their asylum claims denied and been deported under Sessions’ purview.

Justice Department spokesman Steve Stafford said that the agency was considering an appeal.

“We are reviewing our options with regard to this ruling, and we will continue to restore the rule of law in our immigration system,” Stafford said on Wednesday.

USA Today reports that the ACLU lawyers who filed the suit regard Sullivan’s ruling as an important first step in restoring migrant rights.

“This ruling is a defeat for the Trump administration’s all-out assault on the rights of asylum seekers,” said Jennifer Chang Newell of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “The government’s attempts to obliterate asylum protections is unlawful and inconsistent with our country’s longstanding commitment to provide protection to immigrants fleeing for their lives.”


Another court defeat for Trump on immigration

Federal judge blocks another attempt by Trump to limit asylum

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