US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions rules out domestic violence for asylum claims

Sessions excludes domestic gang violence from asylum claims

Attorney General Sessions to Unveil Changes to Asylum Rules, Reduce Reasons Used for Asylum

Crimes such as domestic violence and gang-related attacks, as "vile and reprehensible" as they are, don't automatically ensure their victims can obtain asylum in the United States, Attorney General Jeff Sessions told immigration judges Monday. In his March order intervening in the case, the attorney general asked both sides for arguments on whether being the victim of "private criminal activity" like domestic or gang violence can qualify a person for asylum.

A local immigration lawyer says many flee their country because of both domestic violence and gang violence.

Sessions, an opponent of immigration since his time as a U.S. Senator from Alabama, said in prepared remarks that America's "asylum system is being abused to the detriment of the rule of law".

"The vast majority of the current asylum claims are not valid", he added, saying only 20 per cent have met asylum standards.

Domestic violence is a "particularly hard crime to prevent and prosecute, even in the United States", Sessions wrote, but its prevalence in El Salvador doesn't mean that its government was unwilling or unable to protect victims any less so than the United States.

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In the USA, foreign nationals can qualify for asylum if they are able to establish that they would be persecuted in their home country based on their religion, race, nationality, political beliefs or "membership in a particular social group".

Mexico offered them protection, but almost 500 refused and continued to the US, where they made initial asylum claims.

"We finally have a process in place to get to the bottom of all these bad cases and start denaturalizing people who should not have been naturalized in the first place", Cissna said.

"If you cross the border unlawfully ... then we will prosecute you", Sessions said last month.

They said Sessions' decision overturns decades of legal efforts to protect abused women.

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The asylum system has come under scrutiny after a migrant caravan with some 1,500 people, mostly from Central America, crossed Mexico. The claims of the woman in this case, who said her social group was "El Salvadoran women unable to leave their domestic relationships where they have children", did not fit the law's requirements, he said. The woman said her ex-husband had raped her, and his brother, a police officer, had also threatened her. In 1997, the Democratic Party overwhelmingly passed the most consequential restriction on the right to asylum in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA), which bars immigrants from applying for asylum unless they do so within one year of entering the US.

And immigration courts overall face a backlog of about 700,000 cases of all types. He also said 100 new immigration judges will be hired this year.

The US Board of Immigration Appeals found in 2016 that the woman qualified under the "particular social group" definition, but Mr Sessions overturned the finding on Monday.

CORNISH: And what is the argument from the attorney general on that?

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