Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday afternoon that the Trump administration will stop granting asylum to victims of gang violence and domestic abuse, reports the LA Times.
“Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum,” Sessions wrote in his decision.
“The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes—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,” he continued.
Sessions ordered immigration judges to stop granting asylum to most victims of domestic abuse and gang violence, a move that would block tens of thousands of people, especially women, from seeking refuge in America.
In a speech earlier in the day to a training session for immigration officials, Sessions explained that “asylum was never meant to alleviate all problems — even all serious problems — that people face every day all over the world.”
His anticipated “ruling restores sound principles of asylum and longstanding principles of immigration law,” he said.
The LA Times notes:
The policy Sessions took aim at lies at the heart of an area of immigration law that has been hotly contested over the past two decades. During that time, advocates for victims of domestic violence have succeeded in winning cases that liberalized the law to protect victims of abuse or extortion whose home governments couldn’t or wouldn’t protect them. Many of the immigrants granted asylum as a result were fleeing Central American nations that offer little protection to victims of domestic abuse and gangs.
The government does not appear to keep statistics on exactly how many asylum claims fall into the categories Sessions is now excluding, but advocates estimate that domestic violence victims seeking asylum number in the tens of thousands each year. A large share of those requests have been successful, as a result of several administrative rulings and court cases during the Obama administration.
“There are many, many Central American women and women from other parts of the world who have been able to obtain protection,” said Denise Gilman, director of the immigration clinic at the University of Texas Law School in Austin. “Many women sitting right now in detention under these claims might lose their right to obtain protection and be deported to dangerous situations.”
Sessions’ action on Monday overturned earlier court decisions and a 2014 ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals, which held that people trapped in domestic violence in Central American could qualify for asylum in the U.S.