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Judge Blocks Trump Administration’s Push to Deny Asylum to Domestic Violence Victims

A federal district judge refused to uphold Trump administration policies that were designed to make obtaining asylum more difficult for domestic violence and gang violence victims.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan called the policies “arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law” in his opinion.

The lawsuit Judge Sullivan ruled on was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies.  The plaintiffs in the suit were 12 asylum-seekers that had applied due to alleged abuse, beatings, and kidnappings in their native countries.

The 12 plaintiffs were denied asylum due to the restrictions that the new policies had placed on asylum, even though the asylum officers had found the plaintiffs’ stories of the abuse they suffered in their native countries to be honest.

For a foreign national to qualify for asylum in the United States, the foreign national must prove that they have a real fear of persecution in their native country on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, and/or membership in a particular social group.  Traditionally, the “membership in a particular social group” category was thought to have included domestic violence victims and the victims of gang violence.  But, the previous Trump administration attorney general, Jefferson B. Sessions, issued a decision in the case of a woman who had fled alleged abuse from her husband in El Salvador.

Sessions’ decision said, “Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum.”

Judge Sullivan’s opinion in the current case of the 12 asylum applicants admonishes Sessions’ decision.

Jennifer Chang Newell of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project argued the case.  She said of Judge Sullivan’s ruling, “This ruling is a defeat for the Trump administration’s all-out assault on the right of asylum seekers.  The government’s attempt to obliterate asylum protections is unlawful and inconsistent with our country’s long-standing commitment to provide protection to immigrants fleeing for their lives.”

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