Attorney General plans to block domestic violence victims from US asylum

Diamond Durant | 7/5/2018, 10:33 a.m.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a decision in Matter of A-B, barring mostly all domestic violence victims ...
Jeff Sessions CNN photo

Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a decision in Matter of A-B, barring mostly all domestic violence victims from asylum in the United States.

The Board of Immigration Appeals issued its ruling in 2014 in Matter of A-R-C-G, allowing abuse victims to qualify for asylum.

Sessions has reversed this precedent and intends to restrict the number of individuals citing domestic abuse or gang violence who are allowed to seek refuge in the U.S. 

His decision directly affects immigrant women and children and leaves the most vulnerable population without protection. 

“This isn’t a political issue,” Camille Mackler, director of Immigration Legal Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition, told the AmNews. “This is about common decency and upholding dignity and values of human life. Policies should never be guided by hatred.”

The decision comes at a triggering time in immigration law, when huge issues are already arising at the border. Recently, many parents have been separated from their children by Customs and Border Protection officers, and then coerced into pleading guilty to illegal crossing. 

Audio from inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility was also released earlier this month by the investigative nonprofit ProPublica. In the background there are sobbing and traumatized children calling out for their parents. 

“Jeff Sessions has always been anti-immigrants,” said Anne Pillsbury, director of Central American Legal Assistance. “Seeking asylum was always been difficult and still is. We need to pay attention to the way congressmen and senators are voting.”

Although the attorney general has deployed procedural chicanery, there is a chance his decision could be overturned. He is now sending his decision to the immigration judge. Once it is issued, it can be appealed up to the Board of Immigration Appeals. The decision can hit multiple circuits and once there is a circuit split, it is likely the decision would go to the Supreme Court. 

The wave of border tensions and the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy have not only been crippling to the progression of immigration law, but also hindered those advocates in the United States. 

We All Really Matter is a Harlem-based not-for-profit organization whose mission is to aid those in, and recently out of, domestic violence relationships. 

“Domestic violence is a silent killer and a lot of women aren’t speaking about it,” Stephanie McGraw, founder and CEO of W.A.R.M, explained. “If a woman is speaking out about it, that’s a cry for help. We need to believe these women and offer them the opportunities to create a safe place where they can begin to heal and break the vicious cycle.” 

Currently, those seeking asylum in the United States will have to face an asylum screening to be put in immigration detention. 

However, there could be good news. In a memo that surfaced Tuesday, obtained by Vox and written by John L. Lafferty, the head of the Asylum Division for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, more directives to asylum officers will be issued and Sessions’ ruling is being analyzed. There have been no immediate sweeping changes to asylum standards.