In an opinion yesterday in the case Matter of A-B, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ruled that “claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not [generally] qualify for asylum…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.”

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) authorizes the granting of asylum if an alien is unable or unwilling to return to his/her country of origin because of past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution related to “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” In 2014, the Board of Immigration Appeals ruled in Matter of A-R-C-G that “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship” constitute a “particular social group” under the law. In Matter of A-B, a Salvadoran woman was granted asylum who had been severely abused by her former husband.

The Attorney General’s ruling in Matter of A-B overturned the Matter of A-R-C-G ruling. Sessions said it was wrongly decided and should not have been issued as a precedent. Setting guidance for future cases, he said an applicant seeking to establish persecution related to membership in a “particular social group” must demonstrate: membership in a group that is composed of those who share socially-distinct, common characteristics; that the group exists independently of the harm asserted in the asylum application; and that membership in the group is a central reason for persecution. If the alleged persecutor is unaffiliated with the government, the applicant also must prove that the home government is unwilling or unable to protect the person.

In concluding Sessions wrote, “I do not minimize the vile abuse that the respondent reported she suffered at the hands of her ex-husband or the harrowing experiences of many other victims of domestic violence around the world. I understand that many victims of domestic violence may seek to flee from their home countries to extricate themselves from a dire situation or to give themselves the opportunity for a better life. But the asylum statute is not a general hardship statute…Nothing in the text of the INA supports the suggestion that Congress intended ‘membership in a particular social group’ to be some omnibus catch-all for solving every heart-rending situation.”

Read more in The Washington Times.

Updated: Tue, Jun 26th 2018 @ 11:00am EDT