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Domestic Violence Victims No Longer Eligible for Asylum

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On June 11, 2018 Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed an immigration appeals court ruling that granted asylum to a Salvadoran woman who was sexually, emotionally, and physically abused by her husband. This decision overturns the precedent set during the Obama administration that allowed more women to claim credible fears of domestic abuse or gang violence, and will make it harder for such arguments to prevail in immigration courts. Asylum seekers can make claims that they suffered persecution related to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or their particular social group, broadly considered to include people who share a common characteristic that endangers them and whose governments will not protect them. To learn more about the asylum program, please click here. To learn more about other forms of humanitarian relief, please click here.

With this decision, Sessions that narrowed that definition to no longer include domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by nongovernmental actors. In other words, credible fear caused by private issues no longer qualify as asylum. Sessions has now set a high bar for victims of crime to qualify for asylum protection. Not only must the government of the home country by unable or unwilling to help the victims, but “the applicant must show that the government condoned the private actions or demonstrated an inability to protect the victims”. This decision could prevent tens of thousands of immigrants from getting protection in the U.S., especially vulnerable women from Mexico and Central America. According to the United Nations report, gender-based violence is particularly prevalent in Mexico and parts of Central America. Relatively few asylum seekers are granted permanent entry into the U.S., for every applicant who succeeded, more than 10 others were denied. The process can take months or years, and tens of thousands of people live freely in the U.S. while their cases are processed.

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