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Attorney General Delivers Controversial Opinion Rejecting Domestic Violence as a Valid Ground for Seeking Asylum

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Today, Monday June 11, 2018, in an unprecedented move, the Trump administration announced that it would be dropping asylum protection for survivors of domestic violence. The announcement was made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions this afternoon in the case Matter of A-B- 27 I&N Dec. 316 (A.G. 2018), which explained that victims of domestic violence would no longer be eligible to receive asylum in the United States.

Matter of A-B- 27 effectively reverses a decision formerly made by the Department of Justice immigration appellate court which granted asylum to a woman from the country of El Salvador on the basis of allegations of rape and abuse by her husband.

In his decision, dated June 11, 2018, the Attorney General overruled a separate but similar decision in Matter of A-R-C-G-, stating that the case was “wrongly decided” by the appellate court and should not have become precedent. The Attorney General was able to make such a binding decision on immigration courts across the country because their authority derives directly from the Department of Justice, instead of the judiciary branch.

“The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim,” Jeff Sessions said in a decision that is sure to draw outrage and impending lawsuits against the administration. Under the new ruling applicants must demonstrate not only that the government of their home country is unable or unwilling to render assistance, but also that “the government condoned the private actions or demonstrated an inability to protect the victims,” a very high legal burden for a victim of domestic violence to carry.”

Sessions coldly added in his opinion that although the “prototypical” refugee leaves her country to seek asylum based on government persecution, “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 state does not provide redress for all misfortune.”

This statement in fact sets aside the plight of victims of domestic violence and the high incidence of death that results from that violence. In the future, we are sure to see challenges to this decision, and the involvement of immigration rights groups in litigation.