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  • Sessions Voids Board of Immigration Appeals Decision That Will Impact for Victims of Gang-Based and Domestic Violence

Sessions Voids Board of Immigration Appeals Decision That Will Impact for Victims of Gang-Based and Domestic Violence

Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a controversial decision in a closely-watched asylum appeal that will negatively affect victims of domestic and gang violence seeking protection in the United States

In December of 2016, Matter of A-B- was originally decided in favor of the asylum seeker by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), an administrative branch of the U.S. Department of Justice. The branch accepts appeals of decisions made by civil immigration courts throughout the country filed by either government attorneys or immigrants.

At the end of 2016, the BIA overturned a Charlotte, North Carolina judge’s 2015 denial of A-B-‘s asylum claim finding that the denial was “clearly erroneous.” The BIA said that A-B- had proven she was persecuted based on membership in a “particular social group”; more specifically, “El Salvadoran women who are unable to leave their domestic relationships where they have children in common.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions referred the BIA’s decision to himself in March of 2018. This practice is perceived as quite controversial and it gives a political appointee, and the head of a law enforcement agency, absolute power to overturn the decision of an independent and neutral tribunal of administrative judges. While Sessions’ decision came as no surprise, the decision vacates the BIA’s grant of asylum as “wrongly decided” and says: “The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes—such as domestic violence or gang violence—or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim.”

Fifteen former immigration and BIA judges came together to claim in a statement that Sessions’ finding erased “a 15-year process through the immigration courts and BIA” to develop nuanced and reliable legal standards on the “particular social group” basis for asylum.

 

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