Sessions Says Domestic Violence Is Not Grounds for Asylum

WASHINGTON (CN) –Domestic violence should not be considered grounds for asylum for immigrants fleeing to the United States, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Monday.

According to the 31-page filing entered at the Board of Immigration Appeals court, Sessions wrote: “The prototypical refugee flees from her home country because the government has persecuted her. An alien may suffer threats and violence in a foreign country for any number of reasons relating to her social, economic, family or other personal circumstances.”

But fear of violent reprisal from a spouse  doesn’t fit into the “prototypical” box, Sessions said.

“The asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune,” he said.

Monday’s decision stems from a December 2016 ruling at the immigration which found that a native Salvadoran woman, listed as A-B on the documents, was a part of a “particular social group” and therefore, qualified for asylum protection in the U.S.

The difficulty women face trying to escape violent domestic life with little access to resources qualified her for the protected status.

But Sessions said the court’s “particular social group” definition was too broad.

“In reaching these conclusions, I do not minimize the vile abuse that the respondent reported she suffered at the hands of her ex-husband or the harrowing experiences of many other victims of domestic violence around the world,” Sessions said. “I understand that many victims of domestic violence may seek to flee from their home countries to extricate themselves from a dire situation or to give themselves the opportunity for a better life.”

But the asylum statue is “not a general hardship statute,” he said.

The current definition “is lacking rigor,” he added.

Instead, asylum seekers must satisfy two requirements: first, the applicant must “demonstrate membership in a group, which is composed of members who share a common immutable characteristic, is defined with particularity, and is socially distinct within the society in question.”

Next, that membership must be a “central reason for her persecution,” Sessions wrote.

When the person is not affiliated with the government, as it happened to be in A-B’s case, Sessions said, “ the applicant must show that flight from her country is necessary because her home government is unwilling or unable to protect her.”

There must be a distinction, between “membership in a particular and socially distinct group that exists independently of the alleged underlying harm.”

That distinction must also demonstrates that the persecutors harmed a person “on account of their membership in that group rather than for personal reasons.”

The must also “establish that the government protection from such harm in their home country is so lacking that their persecutors’ actions can be attributed to the government.”

In overruling and vacating the immigration’s court decision Monday, A-B’s case will now be remanded for further consideration.

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