SILVER SPRING, Maryland—In a June 11 decision, Attorney General Jeff Sessions upended asylum law, finding that victims of domestic violence may not receive the protection of asylum in the United States, even when they come from countries whose governments utterly fail to protect them.
“To declare that asylum can no longer be granted to victims of gang violence or spouse abuse not only flies in the face of the American tradition of protecting the most vulnerable immigrants, it sets a dangerous precedent for other victims of violence, including those who are targeted for their religious beliefs,” said Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. Asylum law has long recognized that persecution can occur at the hands of entities that a national government is “unable or unwilling to control” including by terrorist groups such as the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and the Tamil Tigers.
The case involves a victim of domestic abuse, a Salvadoran woman known as A-B, who was granted asylum by the Board of Immigration Appeals. But in reversing the BIA, Sessions said that “claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum.”
CLINIC and nine other faith-based groups had filed an amicus brief to Sessions about the case, saying a ruling against A-B would have repercussions for people in many other types of situation.
“This is a sad day,” said Atkinson. “With this decision the Trump administration continues to keep out of this country those who need the promise and protections of the United States the most, while saying that such refugees should use ‘legal channels’ to seek entry to the United States at the same time it systematically moves to close those channels. CLINIC staff and members of its affiliated agencies recently personally witnessed what happens when beleaguered, fearful people try to use ‘legal channels’ by presenting themselves at ports of entry following a grueling journey. Hundreds have waited for days at ports of entry along the Mexican border, seeking admission to apply for asylum.”
June 11, 2018
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