15 June 2018

News: New Legal Decision on Domestic Violence


On 11 June 2018, the U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, issued a decision on Matter of A-B-The case concerns a woman whose initial claim for asylum based on the particular social group of "El Salvadoran women who are unable to leave their domestic relationships where they have children in common" was denied. In December 2016, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) ruled in favor of the applicant, noting in part the applicant's similarities to the particular social group raised in Matter of A-R-C-G- that was found to be a basis for asylum (for background on this case, see this Harvard Law Review article).

But in March 2018, the AG announced that he would reconsider the case via a process referred to as certification: "[F]ederal regulations permit the Attorney General to intervene in the administrative appeals process by certifying a BIA decision to himself or accepting referral of a BIA decision by DHS or the Board itself. Once a case has been referred, the BIA decision is no longer final and cannot be reviewed by a federal court or relied on as precedent; the decision issued by the Attorney General becomes the final agency decision and serves as precedent binding on future cases" (Trice, 2010).  The AG received briefs from the respondents and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as 12 amicus briefs (all briefs can be accessed via CGRS). This blog post by a former immigration judge provides some background on the lead-up to the decision.

In the end, the AG overruled Matter of A-R-C-G- and vacated the BIA's decision on Matter of A-B-, effectively denying asylum protection to victims of domestic violence. However, his stated intention was much broader.  As he expressed in a speech to immigration judges, "I will be issuing a decision that restores sound principles of asylum and long standing principles of immigration law" and that "will provide more clarity for you. It will help you to rule consistently and fairly."

Commentary & analysis:

Brief Analysis of Attorney General’s Decision in Matter of A-B- (Tahirh Justice Center, June 2018) [text]

Do Abused Women Need Asylum? 4 Essential Reads (The Conversation, June 2018) [text]

Is Domestic Violence Private? It Took 20 Years for Courts to Say No. It Took Jeff Sessions No Time to Say Yes (Marshall Project, June 2018) [text]

"Jeff Sessions is Hijacking Immigration Law," Slate, 13 June 2018 [text]
- Includes commentary on Matter of A-B-.

"Jeff Sessions Just All but Slammed the Door on Survivors of Domestic Violence and Gang Violence," Vox, 11 June 2018 [text]

Why Domestic Abuse and Anti-gay Violence Qualify as Persecution in Asylum Law (The Conversation, June 2018) [text]


Attorney General Pushes Immigration Judges to Deny Asylum to Victims of Violence (AILA, June 2018) [text]

Attorney General Sessions Attempts to Close the Door to Women Refugees (Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, June 2018) [text]
- CGRS has also made an action toolkit available.

HIRC Releases Statement on the Decision in Matter of A-B- (Harvard Immigration & Refugee Clinical Program, June 2018) [text]

Sessions Decision Blocks Domestic Violence Survivors from Asylum (Human Rights First, June 2018) [text]

Statement in Response to Sessions' Decision in Matter of A-B- by Retired Immigration Judges and Former Members of the Board of Immigration Appeals (June 2018) [text]

Wider implications of this decision:

While Matter of A-B- focused on domestic violence, the AG's decision is more wide-ranging and includes references to gang violence, even though it wasn't an issue in the case, and other pronouncements about asylum law.

The Attorney General’s Not-as-Bad-as-We-Feared Decision on Asylum (The Asylumist Blog, June 2018) [text]

"The Massive Asylum Changes Jeff Sessions Tucked into the Footnotes," CNN, 13 June 2018 [text]
- One observation the article makes is that "The last footnote would have implications for every kind of asylum claim. Sessions argues that asylum is itself 'discretionary' -- meaning that even if an applicant meets the eligibility requirements, they should have to prove on top of that why they deserve asylum. Sessions suggests that if an asylum seeker passed through another country and didn't seek asylum there, or came into the US illegally, those could be factors that a judge could use to reject asylum." Side note: The anti-immigration group, Center for Immigration Studies, specifically highlighted footnote 12, noting that it "should further disincentivize illegal entry by aliens who, if apprehended in the United States, plan to claim credible fear without seeking asylum in third countries transited on their way to the United States."

More info on the AG's self-referral of immigration cases:

The AG's Certifying of BIA Decisions (Jeffrey Chase Blog, March 2018) [text]

Brief Argues Attorney General Lacks Impartiality Necessary to Decide Immigration Cases (Immigration Impact Blog, Feb. 2018) [text]

"Jeff Sessions is Exerting Unprecedented Control over Immigration Courts — by Ruling on Cases Himself," Vox, 21 May 2018 [text]

"Sessions Tests Limits of Immigration Powers with Asylum Moves," CNN, 10 March 2018 [text]

Related posts:
- Regional Focus: United States (14 June 2018)
- Thematic Focus: Gender Issues (14 May 2018)

Tagged Publications. 

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