Trump admin decides to end asylum for victims of domestic and gang violence
Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not mince words when he said he sought to end policy allowing victims of domestic violence and gang violence to seek asylum in the United States. Previous policy acknowledged that women and children were especially vulnerable to domestic violence and constituted a “particular social group.” Using the full authority of his position, as a de facto one-man supreme court for immigration policy, Sessions single-handedly overturned the 2014 Board of Immigration Appeals’ ruling that affirmed asylum could apply on these grounds.
Sessions explained that the Board’s interpretation of asylum protection is too lenient and that it was “never meant to alleviate all problems, even all serious problems, that people face every day all over the world,” and further that only under “exceptional circumstances” would victims of private criminal acts meet the standard. This reversal of policy could damage the cases of tens of thousands of people fleeing violence, including from technically non-governmental entities like ISIS, Boko Haram, and President Trump’s favorite boogeymen, MS-13.
MS-13 is a gang infamous for brutality. It originated in Los Angeles, CA in the 1980s and spread to Central America, an area that has suffered from the ravages and consequences of war. Women and children are fleeing because their country cannot protect them from domestic violence and gang violence, often due to the inability or unwillingness of the local government to protect them.
Trump has referred to MS-13 as “animals” and often uses them as a scapegoat for his anti-immigration push, yet at the same time wants to keep the immigrants fleeing from them and groups like them out of the U.S. as well. According to David Leopold, a former president and general counsel of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, women and children who sought asylum will now be in “grave danger,” which “violates the spirit of our asylum law which Congress wrote to protect victims of persecution” who have only left their home countries to protect their lives.
Another reason is that the administration has a goal to cut back on immigration caseloads which stands at 700,000 and counting. In order to achieve these cuts and to assist immigration judges’ in expediting cases they have defined that protection of social groups against persecution does not include victims of domestic or gang violence.
The United States has traditionally been viewed worldwide as a land of opportunity and freedom, and as a leader in advancing the cause of human rights. The Statue of Liberty is a beacon for those coming here to make a life, particularly when their own home country becomes inhospitable. Under President Trump and A.G. Sessions’ new policy, it seems we are hanging up the “Do not disturb” sign.