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U.S. could stop granting asylum to domestic violence victims

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is currently considering whether domestic violence victims from foreign countries should qualify for asylum in the United States. His decision could impact the cases of thousands of immigrants in California and across the country.

Sessions is reviewing the asylum case of a victim to determine whether domestic violence claims deserve the same consideration as political persecution claims. However, he has already indicated skepticism regarding their merit, calling domestic violence a "private criminal activity." Immigrant advocates disagree. They say that domestic violence victims come to the U.S. because authorities in their own countries refuse to protect them, which qualifies them for asylum. Advocates also say that private criminal activity is cited in around 90 percent of asylum cases, and disallowing it would send victims home to a certain death.

Legal experts point out that Sessions cannot change immigration law. However, he can change the way immigration judges rule on cases. If he decides that domestic violence victims are not eligible for asylum, other judges could be forced to follow his precedent. According to the Executive Office for Immigration Review, over 100,000 asylum cases were filed across the U.S. during the 2017 fiscal year. It is not known how many of those cases involved claims of domestic violence.

Asylum seekers may be able to strengthen their case by retaining the services of a family immigration attorney. Legal counsel might help prepare the asylum application and represent an asylum seeker during all immigration hearings. An attorney may also be able to help an asylum seeker's family members, including a spouse or fiancé, begin the naturalization process.

Source: PRI, "Will the US deny asylum to domestic violence survivors?," Beth Fertig, June 7, 2018

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