Domestic, gang violence no longer grounds for United States asylum

US won’t give asylum to victims of gangs domestic abuse

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he would release a new interpretation of asylum in order to relieve pressure on immigration courts, The Hill reported Monday. Three months ago, he re-opened Matter of A-B (named for the woman's initials) - which affirmed the asylum status of a woman from El Salvador who was the victim of domestic violence - to make his announcement, as the case went to the Board of Immigration Appeals. However, as the United States´ chief law enforcement officer, the attorney general can intervene in its decisions to shape law.

They estimated that tens of thousands of asylum seekers would be shut out of the United States as a result. But Sessions recently called into question whether such cases merited protection under United States asylum laws.

Domestic violence is a "particularly hard crime to prevent and prosecute, even in the United States", Sessions wrote, but its prevalence in El Salvador doesn't mean that its government was unwilling or unable to protect victims any less so than the United States. 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. In March, Sessions ended a requirement that asylum seekers get a full hearing before an immigration judge, making it easier for judges to close cases they deem frivolous or unlikely to succeed.

"Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum", Sessions said in his ruling.

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Hours before issuing his decision, Sessions said the asylum system is being abused.

Last year, the Trump administration used an executive order to put a travel ban in place, banning refugees from entering the US from certain countries.

"Today's decision by the Attorney General is yet another attempt to close our doors, " Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council. During a speech earlier in the day, Sessions said asylum was "was never meant to alleviate all problems- even all serious problems- that people face every day all over the world".

Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor, said a key point in Sessions' ruling was that applicants needed to demonstrate that "the government condoned the private actions or demonstrated an inability to protect the victim".

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