Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a ruling this week that says victims of domestic abuse and gang violence generally will not qualify for asylum under federal law. Sessions’s ruling vacated a 2016 decision by the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals that said an El Salvadorian abused woman was eligible for asylum. Although the appeals board is typically the highest government authority on immigration law, the attorney general can assign cases to himself and set precedents. Immigration advocates warn that this decision could threaten the safety of thousands of foreign nationals who have sought haven in the US.
Sessions writes in the ruling:
Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum. The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes — such as domestic violence or gang violence — or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim.
Immigration advocates have sharply criticized the decision. “Women and children will die as a result of these policies,” Michelle Brané, director of the Women’s Refugee Commission’s migrant rights and justice program, says in a statement. Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council, also criticizes the ruling in the Washington Post. “Today’s decision by the attorney general is yet another attempt to close our doors. Turning our backs on victims of violence and deporting them to grave danger should not be the legacy sought by any administration."