Sessions: Domestic abuse, gang violence may not secure asylum

Immigrant rights groups say Sessions ruling could affect tens of thousands of women

Immigrant rights groups say Sessions ruling could affect tens of thousands of women

Sessions' ruling overturned a 2016 decision by the Justice Department's Board of Immigration Appeals that said a battered woman from El Salvador was eligible for asylum under federal law.

The cases can take years to resolve in backlogged immigration courts that Sessions oversees and applicants often are released on bond in the meantime.

"Although there may be exceptional circumstances when victims of private criminal activity could meet these requirements, they must satisfy established standards when seeking asylum", Sessions wrote.

"Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum", he wrote. It overturns a 2014 ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals, which held that domestic violence victims from Central American countries could qualify for asylum in the US.

Mr. Sessions said that stretched the definition of asylum, which was meant to be a protection for those fleeing political violence, religious persecution or beatings because they belonged to an ethnic minority.

At issue is a part of asylum law that protects members of a "particular social group" who are victims of persecution.

Mexico offered them protection, but almost 500 refused and continued to the USA, where they made initial asylum claims.

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US Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, said the decision was "despicable and should be immediately reversed".

Critics called Monday's ruling the latest effort by the Trump administration to erode asylum protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants, particularly those fleeing rampant gang violence and high homicide rates in Central America.

"The world will know what our rules are, and great numbers will no longer undertake this unsafe journey", Sessions said Monday. When she appeared in immigration court, the judge said she was lying and rejected her asylum application, slating her for deportation.

Sessions told immigration judges in Washington that illegal immigrants are misusing the asylum system. The claims of the woman in this case, who said her social group was "El Salvadoran women unable to leave their domestic relationships where they have children", did not fit the law's requirements, he said. However, as the United States' chief law enforcement officer, the attorney general can intercede in its decisions to shape law.

The legal standard for obtaining asylum in the U.S.is strict, and ordinarily requires that people from foreign countries demonstrate they face serious, legitimate risks of persecution by their government if they remain in their homeland.

Yet Andrew R. "Art" Arthur, a former immigration judge and now a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, said Mr. Sessions is bringing clarity to the system.

"We're still in labor negotiations to discuss ways to achieve more numerical completions. we don't agree that 700 is a realistically achievable number", Marks added. Attorney General Sessions: "their blood is on your hands".

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