April 27, 2018

ABA urges attorney general to continue immigration rules regarding victims and asylum

CHICAGO, April 27, 2018 — The American Bar Association has filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Department of Justice, outlining reasons for why the attorney general should keep current immigration rules establishing that foreign victims of uncontrolled private criminal activity should be eligible for asylum in the United States under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

In March, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who administers the nation’s system of immigration adjudication, indicated he was considering changing precedents of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Specifically, Sessions requested comment on whether and when should victims of private criminal activity abroad constitute “particular social groups” and thus be eligible for asylum or withholding of removal.

The broader issue generated attention this month because of the migrant caravans in Mexico that drew the ire of President Donald Trump in a series of tweets. News reports indicated that in one caravan alone, Central American migrants numbered about 700 persons and said many were women and children fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries.

In its brief filed Friday, the ABA pointed to numerous U.S. federal court cases and BIA decisions as well as U.S. Department of State guidelines for keeping intact “BIA’s well-established precedent” and ensuring consistency with federal caselaw. Several of the persecution cases related to forced female genital mutilation and other forms of gender-based violence, and involved immigrants from throughout the world, including the countries of Albania, Nigeria, Jordan, Somalia and Ghana.

“As the cases demonstrate, gender-based violence is frequently perpetrated by private criminal actors whom governments are unable or unwilling to control,” the ABA brief said. “Allowing gender-based violence as a ground for asylum and withholding of removal is critical to the advancement of human rights principles for women and girls, who will otherwise face life-threatening violence and abuse.”

The ABA amicus brief filed with the Justice Department is available here.

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