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Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday that fear of domestic abuse alone is not enough to qualify for asylum, a ruling that could affect thousands of migrants from Central America who say they are fleeing violence in their home countries.

Sessions’ legal opinion reverses a 2014 ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals that granted asylum to a woman from Guatemala who had been abused by her husband, in a case known as “Matter of A-R-C-G-.” That ruling, and a similar case from 2016 known as “Matter of A-B-,” established the precedent that certain abused women could be considered part of a “particular social group” facing persecution.

BIA - Decision - Decision - Sessions - Opinion

The BIA decision was “wrongly decided and should not have been issued as a precedential decision,” Sessions countered in his opinion, arguing that personal violence alone was not enough to meet the standard for a valid asylum claim under U.S. law.

“An alien may suffer threats and violence in a foreign country for any number of reasons relating to her social, economic, family, or other personal circumstances,” he wrote. “Yet the asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune.”

Immigration - Courts - Justice - Department - Sessions

Because immigration courts are overseen by the Justice Department, Sessions, as attorney general, has the authority to refer cases to himself and overrule previous immigration appeals court decisions. His ruling in the Matter of A-B- echoed remarks he gave to immigration judges earlier Monday, saying that asylum was “never meant to alleviate all problems, even all serious problems, that people...
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