On Monday, the Department of Justice announced an important policy change – one that will affect the qualifications for claiming asylum in the U.S.
Julian Aguilar covers immigration and border security issues for the Texas Tribune. He says the new decision from Attorney General Jeff Sessions essentially overrules a case from 2016 involving a woman from El Salvador.
“She claimed asylum based on the fact that she could not escape her abusive relationship and the authorities there were unwilling or unable to protect her,” Aguilar says. “And what the attorney general said basically yesterday is that that’s not enough. He said while it’s regrettable that these countries are in this situation, just that fact alone that they’re violent isn’t enough to qualify for an asylum claim. And that also affects people fleeing gang violence.”
While the U.S. does approve some Central Americans’ asylum claims, those cases are few and far between. Now, that opportunity will narrow.
“It’s going to shut the door to most,” Aguilar says. “So in order to have an asylum claim after this change based on this ground, it’s got to be likely a super, super unique case. You probably have to have representation. It’s going to hinder a lot, a lot more people from even trying to claim asylum.”
Under the new policy, Sessions said judges must apply this new precedent to their cases, which critics say takes away a judge’s ability to make a decision.
“I think those are the two biggest issues here,” Aguilar says. “That the judge’s independence is sort of yanked, and it closes the door for tens of thousands of people that would have tried to seek asylum in the future.”
Written by Jen Rice.