On the heels of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement that domestic violence and gang violence should no longer serve as a basis for seeking asylum in the USA, immigration experts are warning that the decision puts many asylum seekers, particularly women, in harm's way. Sessions´ decision followed his unusual move to personally intervene in the case, known as the "Matter of A-B-".
The inhumanity of the Trump Administration's asylum policy is staggering.
In 2014, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) had ruled in a groundbreaking decision that domestic violence could be a basis for an asylum claim.
As attorney general, Sessions has broad powers over the nation's immigration courts.
This reverses the Obama administration's guidance, and will affect tens of thousands of people, mostly women, who apply for asylum as victims of rape and other domestic violence each year, coming especially from chaotic Central American countries. I know exactly what it takes to migrate as a domestic violence survivor and it hurts so much to see this happening. Many victims of domestic and gang violence seek protection on grounds of being in persecuted social group. But he said his decision would restore "sound principles of asylum and long-standing principles of immigration law".
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Immigrant rights advocates say Sessions' decision runs counter to decades of established precedent.
Hours before he issued Monday's decision, Sessions told immigration judges that it will be their "duty to carry out this ruling".
The decision is counterintuitive for the Trump administration, which is at the same time claiming that violence by the Central American MS-13 gang is one of the most pressing and unsafe issues of our time, but then not allowing victims of MS-13 violence to apply for asylum.
That disqualifies most victims of "personal crimes", the Justice Department said in an accompanying statement that specifically mentions domestic violence.
"We had to cross the border to be safe so that my mom, my siblings and I could be free from pain and suffering", she said. "The Trump immigration approach is increasingly defined by immorality and depravity". "This change will put the lives of particularly vulnerable people at risk", he continued.
Shortly after taking office, the USA president signed an executive order, expanding the powers of the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to focus on detaining most undocumented immigrants, including those with no criminal record. Bookey represented the Salvadoran woman in the case before the attorney general.