U.S. attorney general curbs asylum for immigrant victims of violence

U.S. attorney general curbs asylum for immigrant victims of violence

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 us, immigration experts are warning that the decision puts many asylum seekers, particularly women, in harm's way.

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.

In the USA, foreign nationals can qualify for asylum if they are able to establish that they would be persecuted in their home country based on their religion, race, nationality, political beliefs or "membership in a particular social group".

The decision came hours after Sessions' latest criticism on the asylum system, which he and other administration officials consider rife with abuse. Some said the decision could have wide-ranging impacts on immigrants fleeing gang violence and gender-based violence, including female genital cutting or honor killings.

The Trump administration has made a decision to stop granting asylum to victims of gang violence and domestic abuse - essentially blocking tens of thousands of people from seeking refuge in the USA, many of them women.

The attorney general's decision could impact thousands of asylum seekers and has sweeping implications for United States immigration courts. However, as the United States´ chief law enforcement officer, the attorney general can intervene in its decisions to shape law.

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"This administration continues to swiftly deconstruct America's moral code and values by doing everything possible to limit access to asylum". As attorney general, Sessions has broad powers over the nation's immigration courts.

"Today's decision by the Attorney General is yet another attempt to close our doors, " Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council.

"Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum, " he wrote.

He noted that, for the last five years, only 20 per cent of asylum claims have been found to be meritorious after a hearing before an immigration judge.

In a speech earlier that day, the Times reported that Sessions bolstered this ruling by saying "asylum was never meant to alleviate all problems-even all serious problems-that people face every day all over the world".

Sessions also said it was the "duty" of judges to follow his orders and carry out his interpretation of the law.

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