Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions rules out domestic violence for asylum claims

US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions rules out domestic violence for asylum claims

Immigrant and women's rights advocates have slammed a ruling by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions that may make it almost impossible for domestic abuse and gang violence survivors to seek asylum in the US.

The attorney general's decision could impact thousands of asylum seekers and has sweeping implications for USA immigration courts. She appealed and, in 2016, the board ruled in her favor, saying it was clear that the Salvadoran government was unable to protect her even after she moved to another part of the country.

To seek asylum in the United States, one needs to qualify as a refugee, Congress decided in 1980.

In the meantime, Sessions says he hopes his message is reaching would-be asylum-seekers in Central America and that they think twice before traveling to the US border.

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

Immigrant advocates, however, say Sessions is taking away an essential lifeline for victims of domestic abuse and gang violence, and turning his back on an American legacy of protecting the most vulnerable. However, as the United States' chief law enforcement officer, the attorney general can intercede in its decisions to shape law.

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. She attempted to escape him by moving to another Salvadoran town, obtaining restraining orders, and divorcing him, but the threats and violence continued, according to her court filings. The AG's ruling serves as a binding precedent for immigration judges.

The United Nations High Commission on Refugees had urged Sessions against changing the asylum rules.

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Many called the ruling the "horrific" continuation of the Trump administration's attack on women's rights and its crackdown on immigrants.

Domestic violence is a "particularly hard crime to prevent and prosecute, even in the United States", Sessions wrote, but its prevalence in El Salvador doesn't mean that its government was unwilling or unable to protect victims any less so than the United States.

The decision involved a case of a victim of domestic violence from El Salvador.

An administration official said last month that the backlog of asylum cases topped 300,000, almost half the total backlog. "Our asylum laws are meant to protect those who, because of characteristics like their race, religion, nationality, or political opinions can not find protection in their home countries", he said.

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