ASYLUM CRACKDOWN: Sessions Moves to ‘BLOCK’ Asylum Seekers from Entering US

ASYLUM CRACKDOWN: Sessions Moves to ‘BLOCK’ Asylum Seekers from Entering US

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington.

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 United States, many of them women.

"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.

The government does not say how many asylum claims are for domestic or gang violence, but asylum seeker advocates said there could be tens of thousands of domestic violence cases in the current immigration court backlog. Earlier, a 2014 immigration review board ruled that "depending on the facts and evidence in an individual case, "married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship" can constitute a cognizable particular social group that forms the basis of a claim for asylum".

Judges will be required to take Sessions ruling into account when decided on asylum cases.

The decision to refuse asylum to the Salvadoran woman, whose former husband raped and beat her for 15 years, narrows who can qualify for asylum when they become victims of criminal activity, as opposed to government persecution.

"This is not just about domestic violence", said Musalo.

"No country provides its citizens with complete security from private criminal activity, and ideal protection is not required", he wrote.

Immigration judges in the USA are required to rule on cases according to the attorney general's interpretation. The Department of Justice remains committed to reducing violence against women and enforcing laws against domestic violence, both in the United States and around the world.

The attorney general did not reveal the specifics of the changes to the law.

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". She anticipates other cases in the pipeline may reach the appeals court first.

But in the ruling, Sessions said such cases would be less common going forward.

The decision could have wide-ranging impacts on immigrants seeking refuge in the United States from violence in their home countries.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared tough limits on asylum claims Monday in an effort to push back against a flood of illegal immigrant families from Central America.

An administration official said last month that the backlog of asylum cases topped 300,000, almost half the total backlog. As attorney general, Sessions has broad powers over the nation's immigration courts.

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