Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Judge strikes down Trump administration efforts to deny asylum

A federal judge on Wednesday struck down most of the policies former Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued that made it almost impossible for victims of domestic and gang violence to seek asylum.

Judge Emmet Sullivan, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, said the policies, which created a stricter test to satisfy the “credible fear” standard for asylum claims, were unlawful. He also ordered the government to return to the United States the plaintiffs who were unlawfully deported under the policy.

The policy changes came in an immigration case in which Sessions reversed a grant of asylum for a Salvadoran woman who claimed to have fled years of abuse by her then-husband. In that case, Sessions said victims of domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by nongovernmental actors generally will not qualify for asylum.

In a policy memo two days after the ruling, USCIS said victims of domestic and gang violence have to show that the government of their home nation was “unwilling or unable to control” the harm and either “condoned the behavior or demonstrated a complete helplessness to protect the victim.” Sullivan, a Clinton appointee, said Sessions’ ruling created an arbitrary and capricious general rule.

He also found that the rule violated federal immigration law, which requires credible fear claim determinations to be made on an individual basis. “Many of these policies are inconsistent with the intent of Congress as articulated in the [Immigration and Nationality Act]” Sullivan wrote.

Sullivan upheld two provisions of the new policies, which plaintiffs argued changed the standards of asylum review for these cases. Jennifer Chang Newell, who manages ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, and represented the challengers in this case, called the ruling a defeat; “The government’s attempt to obliterate asylum protections is unlawful and inconsistent with our country’s longstanding commitment to provide protection to immigrants fleeing for their lives,” she said in a statement.