June 23, 2018

Domestic abuse victims don’t qualify for USA asylum, rules Jeff Sessions

12 June 2018, 05:50 | Taylor George

America to toughen screening of illegal migrants seeking asylum, Attorney-General says

Attorney General Sessions to Unveil Changes to Asylum Rules, Reduce Reasons Used for Asylum

In a deciding opinion on a case of an unidentified woman from El Salvador who was raped and beaten by her husband for years, Sessions said that asylum seekers must prove that they suffer persecution arising from their membership in a distinct group.

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". It overturns a 2014 ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals, which held that domestic violence victims from Central American countries could qualify for asylum in the US. 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. That last category often included domestic violence victims and victims of gang violence.

The decision came hours after Sessions' latest criticism on the asylum system in which he and other administration officials consider rife with abuse.

Sessions' decision drew immediate rebukes from dozens of immigration rights advocate groups and lawyers.

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"We had to cross the border to be safe so that my mom, my siblings and I could be free from pain and suffering", she said. "What this means in practical terms is that the United States is turning its back on our commitment to never again send people back to a country where their life is at risk", she says in an email. "The Trump immigration approach is increasingly defined by immorality and depravity".

Shortly after taking office, the USA president signed an executive order, expanding the powers of the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to focus on detaining most undocumented immigrants, including those with no criminal record. The decision could force immigration judges to reopen numerous roughly 350,000 cases that were administratively closed before the end of the 2017 fiscal year, despite the fact that there is already a more than 700,000-case backlog.

There have also been allegations of sexual harassment against guards at detention centres. "If you're smuggling a child, then we're going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law", he added.

The Trump administration has accused migrants of exploiting the asylum system to gain entry to the United States, aware that the immigration courts are so backlogged that their cases could take years to complete. "This is a legal decision that is subject to review by the federal courts".

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