Sessions: No More Asylum for Victims of Gangs and Domestic Violence

The attorney general and his boss like to talk about the evil of gangs, but won’t lift a finger to help their noncitizen victims.

In a brutal confirmation of the Trump administration’s callousness toward the safety or welfare of people fleeing horrible situations and trying to enter the U.S., Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered immigration judges to stop granting asylum to people who are victims of gang violence or domestic abuse. Evan Halper explains:

The decision, which immigration advocates are sure to aggressively fight, came as Sessions seeks to use the authority of his office to sharply change U.S. immigration law to make it less friendly to asylum seekers.


The attorney general has the power to issue decisions that serve as binding precedents for immigration judges. In this instance, he used a case involving a victim of domestic violence from El Salvador to rule that survivors of such “private” crimes are not eligible for asylum under U.S. law.

This reverses the Obama administration’s guidance, and will affect tens of thousands of people, mostly women, who apply for asylum as victims of rape and other domestic violence each year, coming especially from chaotic Central American countries. Says one immigration advocate:

 Many women sitting right now in detention under these claims might lose their right to obtain protection and be deported to dangerous situations.

Sessions says this action is necessary to maintain “the rule of law,” which is a pretty clear indication that his idea of “the law” includes neither justice nor mercy. And it might well violate broader understandings of even the letter of the law, as Halper notes:

The United Nations High Commission on Refugees had urged Sessions against changing the asylum rules. It warned that such action would violate international agreements the U.S. has entered into concerning refugees and would subject victims to being returned to situations where their lives are in danger. The American Bar Assn. warned that ending the asylum eligibility for victims of domestic violence “would further victimize those most in need of protection.”

Trump and Sessions like to talk tough about crime, and particularly gang violence. It’s clear the tough talk is reserved for America first and only; victims of the “animals” of MS-13 at our doorstep are a matter of indifference. And it’s striking that the administration so loved by conservative Evangelical Christians is so far from the biblical injunction of St. Paul, who said, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

Sessions Ends Asylum for Gang and Domestic Violence Victims