No Asylum For Migrants Fleeing Domestic Violence Or Gangs, Because We're Literally In Hell Now
The M.S. St. Louis, Wikimedia Commons.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions (vomit!) yesterday ordered all immigration judges to immediately stop allowing migrants to claim asylum on the basis of threats to their lives from domestic violence or gang violence, unilaterally overturning established legal precedent and threatening to deport tens of thousands of people, because America is all done with treating brown people as fully human. They can be sent home to die, because, hey, not our problem.

Mind you, Sessions dressed it up a little bit in legalism in his order to immigration judges, which is likely to be fought in court, but unless it's overturned by a federal judge, it will be binding, as of immediately. Sessions argues that an essential federal immigration case that set the precedent for granting asylum to victims of domestic abuse and gang violence was "wrongly decided and should not have been issued as a precedential decision." Asylum, he insists, is only for people being persecuted by their governments, so helping migrants escape such "private" (free market?) abuse and murder isn't simply not covered by asylum law, it's actually illegal.

The Los Angeles Times summarizes the 2014 case Sessions decided is now null and void:

The woman, referred to in immigration court as A.B., for her initials, said she was fleeing years of physical and emotional abuse by an ex-husband who had raped her. An immigration judge had denied her asylum claim, but the Board of Immigration Appeals ruled in her favor in 2016, saying the Salvadoran government had shown it was incapable of protecting her, even after she moved to another part of the country. [...]

"Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum," Sessions wrote in his ruling. "The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes — such as domestic violence or gang violence — or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim."

Sessions did at least acknowledge that A.B. had suffered "vile" abuse, but hey, not really our problem, and tough shit that Obama's Justice Department decided she deserved protection, because that was just another example of Barack Obama and Eric Holder's government overreach.

It's a very simple matter of reading the law as narrowly as possible, just like the greatest legal scholar in history, Neil Gorsuch, as the LA Times explains:

Under the law, people seeking asylum must prove that they have a reasonable fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political views or "membership in a particular social group."

Advocates for victims of domestic violence have argued for years that victims of domestic violence could be considered a "social group" subject to persecution.

In 2014, they won a major victory when the immigration appeals board ruled in favor of a Guatemalan woman fleeing domestic violence, establishing a precedent that has allowed many asylum seekers, especially women from Central America, to win cases.

Well, fine, maybe if the Guatemalan government were itself abusing abused women as a class, which of course the Obama DOJ held was effectively the case, since Central American governments have refused to adequately protect them, and in the case of gang violence, have been unable to protect their own citizens. No way was Sessions going to stand for that stuff, so it's back to abusive husbands and murderous spouses for thousands, or perhaps tens of thousands, of migrants.

Sessions explained in the ruling that it's not enough that asylum seekers will now have to do far more than show they face death because their home governments can't keep them safe.They must prove the government deliberately decided not to keep them safe:

An applicant seeking to establish persecution based on violent conduct of a private actor must show more than the government's difficulty controlling private behavior. The applicant must show that the government condoned the private actions or demonstrated an inability to protect the victims.

What's more, the asylum-seeker would have to prove not just that she was targeted, in danger, and intentionally not protected by the government, but that the government chose not to protect her because she belonged to a particular social group. That ought to be easy enough for the average refugee who's fled her country after getting death threats from a private entity like MS-13, or an abusive husband who knows the courts in his country assume men have the right to beat their wives.

Look, it's a bummer thousands of people will die because of this, but the law is the law, after all, and that is simply not Jeff Sessions's problem:

An alien may suffer threats and violence in a foreign country for any number of reasons relating to her social, economic, family, or other personal circumstances. Yet the asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune. It applies when persecution arises on account of membership in a protected group and the victim may not find protection except by taking refuge in another country.

Sucks to be you, good luck, you're out of here, OK? Also, we'll send your kid back to you whenever we find her, eventually, so you'll have time to make arrangements for her funeral.

Sessions's new ruling can be appealed in federal courts, and it's not clear whether it will withstand judicial scrutiny, according to the LA Times:

Legal experts said the law offering asylum to victims of domestic abuse and gang violence is well established in precedents that appeals court judges may be loath to set aside, despite the authority of the attorney general to guide asylum rules.

If you feared there might be a "but" coming, you were right. Unless the courts block it, which could take years, the Sessions decision is binding on immigration judges, and will have far-reaching consequences right now, according to New York Law School professor Lenni Benson, who heads the school's immigration clinic:

When would-be immigrants arrive at the U.S. border with an asylum claim, they typically first go through a screening interview with border officials. Sessions' decision sends a clear signal to those officials to reject requests for a hearing from people seeking asylum who say they are trying to escape violent gangs or spouses, Benson said.

"The attorney general seems to be saying you don't even have to give these people a chance to talk to a [hearing] officer," she said. As a result, many immigrants detained at the border could be summarily sent home, Benson said.

Benson explained just how utterly screwed tens of thousands of migrants are -- both those currently in ICE detention and those yet to try to escape death at the hands of gangs or abusive spouses. Since immigration courts are directly under DOJ control, Sessions's "poorly reasoned, shallow opinion" is for now governing law in immigration courts, undoing "all the careful advocacy work going on for more than 15 years." Isn't that one neat trick?

People are going to die. Probably hundreds, or thousands. But Sessions has now eliminated one of those "loopholes" in immigration law that Donald Trump is always complaining about, and even if this doesn't make Trump love him, it certainly will have made all the abuse Sessions has endured worth it to him. Even if he's eventually fired for recusing himself from the Russia probe, old immigrant-hating Sessions can be proud he's slammed the door in the faces of migrants and sent them home to die. Surely The Lord Jesus will honor this humble evangelical for his dedication to the strict enforcement of the Law. Or maybe not.

Good thing ol' Jeff is a Methodist and can safely ignore the opinion of a stinking Jesuit.

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[LAT / DOJ / HuffPo]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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