Monday, June 11, 2018
Attorney General Narrows Asylum Eligibility for Battered Women and Persons Who Flee Gang Violence in Matter of A-B-
In reviewing a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) ruling, Attorney General Jeff Sessions today issued his ruling in Matter of A-B-. As the Washington Post succinctly describes the ruling, Sessions concludes that "Victims of domestic abuse and gang violence generally won’t qualify for asylum." The article goes on to state that "Sessions’s ruling overturned a 2016 decision by the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals that said an abused woman from El Salvador was eligible for asylum. The appeals board is typically the highest government authority on immigration law, but the attorney general has the power to assign cases to himself and set precedents."
Attorney General Sessions discussed the ruling today in a training program of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which houses the immigration courts and BIA. The emphasis of his remarks was on reducing the backlog of cases in the system (not on humanitarian relief to people fleeing violence in their homelands).
Criticism of the ruling was swift. Former BIA chair Paul Wickham Schmidt on his blog offered critical thoughts about Attorney General Sessions' ruling. Retired immigration judges and former BIA members responded in a joint statement. Download Reax to AB 6-11-18 (1)
The following is a quote from Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum:
“This narrow interpretation asylum law is a deliberate decision to turn our backs on survivors of domestic abuse and gang violence.
“The United States and this administration are able to afford relief to these individuals under the existing asylum law, but instead are choosing to send them back to countries where their governments and law enforcement cannot protect them.
“Much like the Justice Department’s policy of ripping children from their parents, sending women back to their abusers will not make our nation safer or stronger.”
The following is from a statement from Michelle Lapointe, acting deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center:
“Today’s cruel and heartless decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions – ordering immigration authorities to stop granting asylum to most victims of domestic abuse and gang violence in their home countries – strikes at the heart of longstanding protections guaranteed to asylum seekers, and will condemn tens of thousands of men, women and children to death.
“By declaring that the lack of policing of domestic and gang violence in other countries cannot be the sole basis for asylum in the U.S., Sessions is instituting a policy that will block thousands of people from seeking refuge in America."
The following is a statement from Beth Werlin, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council:
“From its earliest days, the United States has opened its doors to individuals fleeing oppression and persecution. Today’s decision by the Attorney General is yet another attempt to close our doors. Through our work serving detained mothers and children in Dilley, Texas, we see firsthand the trauma of domestic and gang violence and the desperate need for protection. The Attorney General’s decision—if permitted to stand—will no doubt result in sending countless mothers and children back to their abusers and criminal gangs. Turning our backs on victims of violence and deporting them to grave danger should not be the legacy sought by any administration.”
Stay tuned to this blog for analysis of the ruling in A-B-.