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Home / Press Release / Sessions Decision Blocks Domestic Violence Survivors from Asylum
June 11, 2018

Sessions Decision Blocks Domestic Violence Survivors from Asylum

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First condemned the decision issued today by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which aims to block many domestic violence survivors from asylum in the United States. In response to today’s decision, Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer issued the following statement:

At a time when thousands of women and children are fleeing unspeakable violence, today’s decision may be a death sentence; without protection in the United States, these individuals will be left in the direst of circumstances. This is the latest in a long line of attacks the administration has made against refugees. Jeff Sessions is merely a bully picking on the most vulnerable.

With the stroke of his pen, Attorney General Sessions is attempting to unilaterally rewrite U.S. asylum law and block many people fleeing domestic violence and other persecution from receiving refugee protection in this country. Furthermore, his decision essentially dismisses persecution by non-state actors as ‘private violence,’ and claims the United States has no obligation to help these victims.

While the Attorney General claimed earlier today that he was restoring ‘sound principles of asylum and long standing principles of immigration law,’ in reality he is trying to destroy and subvert U.S. asylum and immigration law, and evade U.S. refugee protection treaty obligations.

Dismissing years of case law, the attorney general’s decision strains to overturn existing Board of Immigration Appeals precedent governing the interpretation of the phrase “particular social group.” He has issued a sweeping decision that appears aimed at rendering thousands of people ineligible for asylum because they were persecuted by non-governmental actors. 

The decision was issued in Matter A-B-, a case involving a woman who had fled severe domestic violence, after the attorney general certified the case to himself earlier this year. Human Rights First—along with other groups—filed an amicus brief in support of asylum protection in the United States for women and girls fleeing gender-based violence.

Just last month, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported that it was seeing a “significant increase in the number of people fleeing violence and persecution in the North of Central America,” with many “in serious peril.” The agency has repeatedly reported on the increase in protection requests from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras since 2011, and the increasing numbers seeking protection in Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, and Belize as well as the United States. Despite this reality, in public statements today, the attorney general continued peddling the myth that U.S. protection requests have increased because some asylum seekers were released from immigration detention.

For more information or to speak with Acer contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.