Jeff Sessions Says Domestic & Gang Violence Are Not Grounds For Asylum
In his latest front in his crackdown on immigration, Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions has made it nearly impossible for asylum-seekers to gain entry into the United States on the grounds of domestic abuse or gang violence.
Sessions’ 31-page opinion narrows the grounds for asylum for victims of “private crime.” This takes away refuge for many women fleeing to the United States from Central America when many asylum-seekers are already denied. It was recently reported that many families who arrive at legal entry points along the border are still separated, an act that the U.N. has condemned. According to data from the Department of Homeland Security, for every one person granted asylum there are 10 who were denied.
“Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum,” Sessions said in his opinion. This overturns a precedent started by the Obama Administration that allowed more women to credible fears of domestic abuse, the New York Times reports, and that it will make it more difficult for such claims to be successful in immigration courts.
Immigration courts are under the Justice Department, and Sessions therefore has the power to overturn such precedents. Sessions wrote in his opinion that, “An alien may suffer threats and violence in a foreign country for any number of reasons relating to her social, economic, family or other personal circumstances. Yet the asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune.”
Immigrants’ rights groups immediately condemned Sessions’ decision. Karen Musalo, a defense lawyer who directs the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings College of Law told the Times that it is a return to a time when domestic violence was considered a private matter rather than something the government should intervene in.
“What this decision does is yank us all back to the Dark Ages of human rights and women’s rights and the conceptualization of it,” she said.
President Donald Trump has insisted that violent gang members are abusing the system to illegally come to the United States. However, according to statistics from Border Patrol, the number of illegal immigrants caught at the border is the lowest it has been since 1971.
Sessions recently announced that any immigrant caught illegally crossing the border would immediately be up for federal prosecution. In his speech to immigration judges, Sessions said that, “Saying a few simple words – claiming a fear of return – is now transforming a straightforward arrest for illegal entry and immediate return into a prolonged process.”
“Clarity in law is the right thing,” he added. “The world will know what our rules are.”