Attorney General’s Asylum Decision Undermines All People Seeking Protection

Attorney General’s Asylum Decision Undermines All People Seeking Protection
Washington, DC – Yesterday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a sweeping decision on asylum adjudications.  Matter of A-B-, 27 I&N Dec. 315 (A.G. 2018) undermines decades of legal analysis regarding claims based on domestic violence or other claims in which persecution is carried out by nongovernmental actors based on “membership in a particular social group.”

This decision ignores the powerful claims of refugees and asylees involving extreme forms of violence. It threatens to cut off access to U.S. asylum hearings for people fleeing such violence, particularly those from Central America. In addition, the decision imposes burdensome requirements designed to further tax the already over-burdened asylum and immigration court system and permits the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to willfully ignore the claims of asylum seekers at the border by imposing onerous standards for determining whether an applicant has shown a credible fear of persecution. Mary Giovagnoli, Executive Director of Refugee Council USA, released the following statement:

“The right to seek asylum in the United States is enshrined in our law and is an international obligation. Since the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980, U.S. courts have recognized that persecution may occur for many reasons, not all of which fit into a neatly defined category, and that individuals can be persecuted when the government fails to protect particular groups of people. Many of the most compelling claims arising from Central America today involve the failure of the state to protect victims of domestic or gang violence.  Rather than address the complex nature of these claims, Attorney General Sessions has chosen to dismiss them out of hand, arguing that there is virtually no situation in which the victim of domestic violence or gang violence could make a plausible case for asylum. This decision is aimed at preventing vulnerable women and children from obtaining the protection they need, particularly in light of the well-documented and pervasive violence in many parts of Central America.”

This decision, which also includes numerous instructions to adjudicators about the “proper” way to conduct an asylum adjudication, is an attempt to circumvent Congress by rewriting both the legal standards affecting asylum law and the ability to exercise discretion in assessing the individual factors that make each asylum claim complex and unique. Slamming the door on those fleeing Central American countries facing extreme violence is diametrically opposed to our nation’s values of compassion, hospitality, and welcome.  If it is allowed to stand, it will further erode America’s ability to protect the most vulnerable among us.”

Contact: RCUSA Associate Director, Danielle Grigsby,