Judges cannot consider domestic and gang violence as grounds for asylum, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday in a ruling that could affect large numbers of Central Americans who have increasingly turned to the United States for protection, overruling a Board of Immigration Appeals decision in 2016. Sessions took aim at one of five categories to qualify for asylum – persecution for membership in a social group – calling it “inherently ambiguous.” The other categories are for race, religion, nationality and political affiliation.
The decision came hours after Sessions’ latest criticism on the asylum system, which he and other administration officials consider rife with abuse. The cases can take years to resolve in backlogged immigration courts that Sessions oversees and applicants often are released on bond in the meantime.
“Saying a few simple words — claiming a fear of return — is now transforming a straightforward arrest for illegal entry and immediate return into a prolonged legal process, where an alien may be released from custody into the United States and possibly never show up for an immigration hearing,” Sessions said at a training event for immigration judges. “This is a large part of what has been accurately called ‘catch and release.’”
For more: Time