Our nation's immigration laws provide for asylum to be granted to individuals who have been persecuted, or who have a well-founded fear of persecution, on account of their membership in a 'particular social group, ' but most victims of personal crimes do not fit this definition-no matter how vile and reprehensible the crime perpetrated against them.
This reverses the Obama administration's guidance, and will affect tens of thousands of people, mostly women, who apply for asylum as victims of rape and other domestic violence each year, coming especially from chaotic Central American countries. The woman, who is only identified by her initials, had won an appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which had overturned a lower immigration court judge's denial of her asylum petition.
In the US, 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". The appeals board is typically the highest government authority on immigration law, but the attorney general has the power to assign cases to himself and set precedents.
"You have a woman who barely survived more than a decade of horrific violence, who finally feels that she secured safety ... and now she's thrown into total turmoil again", said Musalo, who directs the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings' law school.
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The move has drawn the ire of Democrats and immigration activists. "It is nearly certain that women will be killed as a result of this decision that will return them to their abusers". Some said the decision could have wide-ranging impacts on immigrants fleeing gang violence and gender-based violence, including female genital cutting or honor killings.
The attorney general did not reveal the specifics of the changes to the law.
A Charlotte, North Carolina-based immigration judge denied the woman asylum. Cracking down on illegal immigration and tightening legal immigration were major themes of President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.
"Asylum was never meant to alleviate all problems - even all serious problems - that people face every day all over the world", Sessions said, The Hill reported.