Immigration Law

Sessions bars most asylum claims for immigrants fleeing domestic and gang violence

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions/Mark Reinstein (

Immigrants are generally not eligible for asylum as a result of domestic violence and gang violence in their home countries, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ruled on Monday.

Sessions said asylum isn’t generally available when the violence is by private rather than governmental actors, report the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and the New York Times.

“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, cannot itself establish an asylum claim,” Sessions wrote.

The ABA had filed an amicus brief urging the Justice Department to rule that asylum should be available for victims of crimes that aren’t being addressed in their home countries.

Sessions had acted after assigning to himself for review the case of a woman who asked for asylum because of rape and abuse by her husband in El Salvador. Sessions had reopened the case using the attorney general’s power over immigration courts.

“The asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune,” Sessions wrote.

At issue in the case, Matter of A-B-, was whether crime victims are members of a “particular social group” eligible for asylum because of persecution. People seeking asylum as crime victims must show they were harmed because of their membership in a socially distinct group, rather than for personal reasons, and they must show that government protection from harm in their home countries “is so lacking that their persecutors’ actions can be attributed to the government,” Sessions said.

“When, as here, the alleged persecutor is someone unaffiliated with the government, the applicant must show that flight from her country is necessary because her home government is unwilling or unable to protect her,” Sessions said.

Sessions ruled in another case last month that immigration judges do not have the general authority to indefinitely suspend cases through administrative closures.

See also:

Washington Post: ” ‘They just took them?’ Frantic parents separated from their kids fill courts on the border”

Wall Street Journal: “Mass Hearings, Uncertain Futures for Migrants Separated From Their Children”

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