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Federal court: People can seek asylum for gang, domestic violence

In June 2018, the Trump administration announced a new "expedited removal" policy which denied people the right to seek asylum based on domestic or gang violence. Now, a federal judge has struck down that policy as being in violation of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, the Administrative Procedure Act and the Refugee Act. He also found that there was no legal basis "for an effective categorical ban on domestic violence and gang-related claims."

As we've discussed before, people can receive asylum in the United States if they can demonstrate a credible fear of persecution based on:

  • Race or nationality
  • Religious or political opinions
  • Membership in a particular social group

Under previous law, people were granted asylum after suffering severe domestic or gang-related violence when the authorities in their home countries were "unable or unwilling" to protect them effectively.

For example, one plaintiff in the case to overturn the new "expedited removal" policy was the victim of terrifying gang violence. First, a gang killed her father-in-law, but local police would take no action. Then, gang members broke her door down and beat her so severely that she couldn't walk. They told her to leave town or they would rape her and mutilate her body.

Before the new "expedited removal" policy, the woman would at least have received a full hearing on whether she had a credible claim of qualifying persecution. Under the new policy, she was turned away after a preliminary meeting -- simply because her claim involved gang violence.

The basis for the new "expedited removal" policy was the intervention by then-attorney general Jeff Sessions in an immigration appeal. He overruled the immigration judge, opining that persecution by non-governmental actors would generally not qualify people for asylum in the U.S.

Now, a federal judge has ruled that Sessions broke the law when he overruled that immigration case. Sessions sought to increase the standard for asylum for people suffering gang and domestic violence, but it is Congress, not the executive branch, that sets such standards. The judge also blocked a rule Sessions instituted that allowed asylum officers to ignore precedents that went against his wishes. The judge permanently blocked the new "expedited removal" policy.

He also ordered help for some of those who had been unlawfully returned to their home countries as a result of the illegal policy. The four plaintiffs who sued to overturn the policy will now receive a cancellation of their expedited removal orders and a new credible fear interview.

If you are seeking asylum in the United States, an immigration attorney may be able to help you. Contact Yew Immigration Law Group for assistance with any immigration law matter.

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