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This week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions made it “all but impossible” for individuals to receive asylum in the United States because of gang violence or domestic abuse.
Asylum claims have expanded too broadly to include victims of “private violence,” like domestic violence or gangs, Mr. Sessions wrote in his ruling, which narrowed the type of asylum requests allowed. The number of people who told homeland security officials that they had a credible fear of persecution jumped to 94,000 in 2016 from 5,000 in 2009, he said in a speech earlier in the day in which he signaled he would restore “sound principles of asylum and longstanding principles of immigration law.”
In 2016, for every applicant who succeeded in receiving asylum, more than 10 others also sought the status, according to data from the Department of Homeland Security.
To gain asylum, an applicant must convince an immigration judge that they will face persecution in their home country due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or for a political opinion. Here’s a sample of asylum cases that have been granted and denied in the past.
This week’s ruling was based on the case of a woman who is known as Ms. A.B. She requested asylum after “enduring more than a decade of domestic abuse in her home country”. The attorney general’s action reverses a 2016 immigration court ruling which granted her asylum.
Ms. A.B. spoke publicly for the first time to NPR, and she talked about the physical and sexual abuse she said she had endured from her husband in El Salvador. “El Salvador is a small place,” she said. “I used to go to the police, but they didn’t do anything.” It’s not clear why Sessions intervened personally in this case. (Read the whole ruling here.)
Sessions’s ruling was criticized by lawmakers and pundits.
Let’s not dance around it: By denying asylum to domestic violence victims fleeing their abusers, the administration will cost women their lives. It shows how little this administration cares about people who are suffering. This is an attack on our most fundamental values. https://t.co/9NEi7JMHbB
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) June 12, 2018
What does this ruling mean for migrants? And could it spur Congress to act on immigration legislation?