In just the latest addition to the Trump administration's mounting collection of "cruel" policies aimed at closing off the nation to refugees and asylum-seekers, Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a new Justice Department guidance on Monday declaring that migrants will no longer automatically qualify for asylum if they present concerns of domestic abuse or gang violence.
The U.S. is supposed to be a haven for people fleeing persecution. Asylum-seekers often face uncertainty: https://t.co/clmZR8uiyd
Today, Jeff Sessions overturned a key case that granted asylum to a woman who was raped, beaten by her former husband: https://t.co/gIqzFFx1RY
— ProPublica (@ProPublica) June 11, 2018
"In what world does the United States turn its back on people who have suffered persecution, trauma, and extreme distress from domestic or gang violence?" said Denise Bell, a researcher for refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International USA. "Today's decision is a direct assault on people seeking protection, especially families fleeing persecution in Central America."
Central America is one of the regions with the highest femicide and gender-based violence rates in the world. I cannot overstate the harm that will be caused by Sessions' decision to stop granting asylum to domestic violence survivors.https://t.co/LWhwZvofK5
— Andrea González-Ramírez (@andreagonram) June 11, 2018
"This is horrific," tweeted one observer. "This is plain cruel," responded Gavin Newsom, California's lieutenant governor. "A disgrace," concluded a law professor. "Can they go any lower?" remarked Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.).
Can they go any lower?
Trump and his cronies intend to utilize every tool at their disposal to demonize immigrants & their children, criminalize their existence, and terrorize vulnerable asylum seekers. https://t.co/O58NQxhpyn
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— Raul M. Grijalva (@RepRaulGrijalva) June 11, 2018
"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' guidance (pdf) states. "An applicant seeking to establish persecution based on violent conduct of a private actor must show more than the government's difficulty controlling private behavior. The applicant must show that the government condoned the private actions or demonstrated an inability to protect the victims."
Sessions first revealed that he would release the revised asylum policy during a speech to the nation's immigration judges on Monday. In the address, he claimed "the asylum system is being abused to the detriment of the rule of law, sound public policy, and public safety," and that "the vast majority of the current asylum claims are not valid."
But immigrants rights advocates pointed out that the asylum process is already incredibly difficult, and now it will be even harder for those fleeing violence to seek protection.
The asylum process as is already incredibly hard - now Jeff Sessions has made it even harder. Now more people who were trying to escape violence will now no longer get relief and will be forced back into danger. #Not1More https://t.co/RFVaC2PBBf
— United We Dream (@UNITEDWEDREAM) June 11, 2018
Those assertions followed an earlier decision, as CNN explained, to use "a little-known authority to refer immigration cases to himself for review, allowing him to almost single-handedly direct how immigration law is interpreted in this country."