Attorney General Jeff Sessions has moved to deny asylum to victims of domestic abuse and gang violence, narrowing the definition of asylum and potentially barring tens of thousands of people from getting it.
Sessions Monday ruled in the case of one Salvadoran woman, known only by the initials on her immigration papers, A.B.
Living in the southern U.S., A.B. requested asylum four years ago after being raped and beaten by her ex-husband over more than a decade.
Sessions personally intervened in her case, something he is permitted to do because U.S. immigration courts fall under the jurisdiction of the Justice Department. The attorney general can intervene in cases to change legal precedents that have been decided by the Board of Immigration Appeals.
In this case, he overruled and vacated the board’s decision, and remanded A.B.'s case "to the immigration judge for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."
“The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim,” Sessions wrote in his ruling Monday.
He went on to narrow the eligibility for asylum by writing that a “particular socieal group must exist independently of the harm asserted in an application for asylum.”
Immigration law says that asylum may be granted to in individual who is persecuted on account of membership in a “particular social group.”
Earlier Monday, Sessions told the Executive Office for Immigration Review that he would "restore the sound principles of asylum and long-standing principles of immigration law."
Sessions said immigrants were taking advantage of the asylum system "to the detriment of the rule of law," and said his ruling will provide more clarity for immigration judges ruling on the validity of claims.
The president of the immigration judges union told Reuters that a "noteworthy amount" of people could be impacted.
Judge Ashley Tabaddor said domestic abuse is “definitely a common claim coming from Central America."
President Donald Trump has long called for an overhaul of the U.S. asylum system, citing a more than tenfold rise in asylum claims since 2011 and rallying against so-called catch and release policies that allow some immigrants to remain in the United States while they await court hearings in a clogged legal system.