On June 11, Attorney General Jeff Sessions added to his impact on U.S. immigration policy with a new order stopping immigration judges from granting asylum to victims of domestic abuse and gang violence. Immigration judges are under the jurisdiction of the federal Justice Department, giving Sessions the power to set legal precedent for all immigration judges with a case ruling of his own. He did this by overturning a 2016 decision granting asylum to a woman from El Salvador fleeing years of physical and emotional abuse by her ex-husband. Sessions said that granting protection for issues involving non-government entities, such as violent abuse from husbands, family members, or gangs, goes against "sound principles of asylum."
The change is expected to have an immediate and devastating impact on asylum seekers and the immigration court system as a whole. Typically, an asylum seeker first goes through a screening interview with border officials before seeing an immigration judge. Now, immigrant advocates are concerned border officials will immediately reject judicial hearing requests from those escaping violent spouses or gangs preventing them from ever having a chance to present their case to a judge. Immigration judges have raised concerns that Sessions is infringing on their ability to make case-by-case decisions by basically "exercising veto power in our decision-making."
Victims of domestic abuse have been eligible for asylum since a landmark ruling in 2014 and policy changes under President Obama allowed these individuals, especially women from Central America, to present their cases to immigrant judges. Sessions reversal and gross narrowing of the scope of eligibility will endanger the thousands of women and other migrants fleeing violence in their home countries. Combined with the policy of separating families at the border and the civil rights issues at detention centers, it is clear that the goal of the Trump administration is not only to deter as many immigrants as possible from coming to the United States, but also to inflict as much harm as possible on those who still do.
Call your senators:
Hi, my name is [NAME] and I’m a constituent from Kenosha.
I'm calling to express my strong opposition to the Justice Department's decision to stop granting asylum to victims of domestic abuse and gang violence. It is absolutely unacceptable to send vulnerable individuals in need of protection back into violent circumstances. I ask that Senator Ron Johnson publicly condemn the Trump administration's unfair and dangerous treatment of these asylum seekers.
Thank you for your time and attention.
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