The Law Office of
Mark Kinzler, P.C.

Sessions' asylum guidelines could lead to risks

Immigrants in Texas with asylum applications may be concerned about recent remarks made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said on June 11 that certain asylum seekers would no longer be granted protection. In particular, victims of domestic and gender violence and gang violence will not be protected, as Sessions classified these types of attacks as "personal crimes" rather than targeting for one's social position. This is a distinct shift from existing practice, which recognized these types of violence as a social phenomenon rather than one that is purely individual.

Sessions stated that asylum is appropriately granted in cases where people face persecution or a fear of persecution based on their membership in a social group, but exempted these types of crimes from that category. In addition, he stated that the horror of the crimes from which people fled was beside the point, citing a case from 2016 in which a woman from El Salvador was a victim of severely violent domestic abuse. Sessions' comments that the asylum process is not a "general hardship" statute drew fire from civil rights and migrant justice advocates.

Advocates noted that a lack of effective policing of crimes like domestic violence and gang activity is, in fact, a political decision that does target specific social groups, including women and poor people. They noted that this decision undermines the basis of asylum decisions that have been made in the United States for years and seeks to block thousands of victims of severe violence and crime from finding safety.

For people seeking asylum, deportation can mean further violence and even death. Asylum seekers can work with an immigration lawyer in order to present the firmest legal basis for their claim, even under Sessions' new guidelines. An attorney can help an immigrant fleeing injustice and violence make a stronger claim for protection.

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