Domestic, Gang Violence No Longer Grounds For US Asylum

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The announcement came just hours after Session hinted at a change in the asylum law during a speech at an annual training conference on immigration. He said it will help reduce the growing backlog of 700,000 court cases, more than triple the number in 2009.

Sessions took aim at one of five categories to qualify for asylum - persecution for membership in a social group - calling it "inherently ambiguous".

Fifteen former immigration judges signed a letter calling Sessions' decision "an affront to the rule of law".

Michelle Brané, director of the Women's Refugee Commission's Migrant Rights and Justice program headquartered in NY, said, "Attorney General Sessions' decision to limit the reasons why people can claim asylum is a devastating blow to families who come to our country seeking protection and safety".

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"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, can not itself establish an asylum claim".

In early May Sessions announced that any illegal border-crossers, including asylum seekers, would first be charged with a crime, and parents and children would be separated. The policy would affect tens of thousands of migrants fleeing violence in Central America and seeking to claim asylum in the US.

"I understand that many victims of domestic violence may seek to flee from their home countries to extricate themselves from a dire situation or to give themselves the opportunity for a better life", he continued.

Sessions has been unusually active in this practice compared to his predecessors by exercising his intervention authority to make it harder for some people to legally remain in the United States. She said she was escaping from an ex-husband who had physically and emotionally abused her for years, even after she moved elsewhere in El Salvador.

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Sessions said the woman obtained restraining orders against her husband and had him arrested at least once.

A Charlotte, North Carolina-based immigration judge denied the woman asylum. The board based its ruling partly on a 2014 precedent, known as the Matter of A-R-C-G, which Sessions also vacated Monday, saying it was "wrongly decided".

Immigrants say they have credible fear about returning to their home countries, so border agents have no choice but to place them in asylum proceedings.

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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