A federal judge permanently enjoined the federal government from enforcing policies that essentially barred domestic and gang violence victims from seeking asylum.
Back in June, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued one of the cruelest pronouncements of his cruel tenure in the Trump administration: that victims of domestic violence or gang violence would generally not be eligible for asylum.
Thankfully, the ACLU just won a major court victory forcing the administration to stop enforcing these policies. And the plaintiffs in the case, a dozen adults and children who had been denied asylum and given deportation orders, were ordered to be allowed to try again to seek asylum — and to be returned to the U.S. if they’d already been deported.
The plaintiffs suffered horrific violence in their home countries. One woman named Grace was raped and beaten by her partner of 20 years, in large part because she had indigenous heritage. Another woman named Mina was beaten by gang members until she couldn’t walk, after she had seen her father-in-law murdered by the same gang because he’d helped a family friend to escape it.
Judge Emmet Sullivan held that Sessions’ policy, a blanket rule that essentially barred most asylum claims from people like Grace and Mina who suffered at the hands of domestic abusers or gang members, flew in the face of the proper understanding of refugee law.
Sullivan — incidentally, the same judge who just told Michael Flynn he sold his country out — also rapped the Trump administration’s knuckles for setting up a policy that was “neither adequately explained nor supported by agency precedent.”
Put another way, Sullivan called the DOJ out for creating a harmful policy out of thin air for no good reason.
By implementing this policy, the Trump administration defeated the basic purpose of seeking asylum: That when you are unsafe in your home country and face violence or the persistent threat of violence, you should be able to leave and seek refuge in another country.
When asylum-seekers arrive at the U.S. border, they’re entitled to an interview to determine whether they had a “credible fear” of persecution in their home country. A credible fear determination doesn’t automatically grant asylum; it just means there is a significant possibility that a person is eligible for it.
In other words, it’s a very early stage in the asylum process. But Sessions, and Trump, wanted to make sure that victims of domestic and gang violence couldn’t even get that far.
Sullivan also wasn’t happy with the Trump administration for more or less telling federal judges that their decisions don’t matter. Sessions’ policy memorandum essentially ordered asylum officers to ignore federal court decisions and instead apply only the policy Sessions had announced.
In the end, Sullivan struck down almost the entirety of the administration’s policy, saying that there was no legal basis for the new rules. Sullivan also enjoined the government, permanently, from enforcing these policies.
And finally, Sullivan ruled that the plaintiffs who had already been deported back to their home countries have to be brought back to the United States and given a chance to proceed through the normal asylum process, with no unnecessary barriers for victims of domestic and gang violence.
It’s a massive victory for human rights, and yet another reminder that the policies of the Trump administration are both morally and legally indefensible.
Published with permission of The American Independent.