The U.S. Attorney General breaks away from an Obama-era practice to allow asylum claims on the basis of domestic and gang violence. It’s the latest in the ongoing debate over who can be granted asylum.
“We have a goal. And that goal is to end the lawlessness that exists in our immigration system,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a crowd of immigration judges Monday.
Sessions announced the decision to no longer grant asylum based on domestic abuse or gang violence and said the move is an effort to reduce the backlog of 700,000 court cases and to stop asylum seekers from gaming the system.
“Asylum was never meant to alleviate all problems, even all serious problems that people face all over the world,” he said.
The ruling could have a widespread impact on the number of undocumented Central Americans arriving to the border.
The KENS 5 Border Team met with a group of approximately 30 Central American immigrants at a Catholic shelter in Alamo, all of whom are seeking asylum.
Jose Alfonso, a Salvadorian father of three, said it is unfortunate the government has taken this position given that so many like him risk their lives by coming to the U.S.
He left behind his mother, wife and two kids in El Salvador, a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world, according to the United Nations.
Alfonso and his son were released by immigration officials Monday and allowed to continue through the asylum process while he reunites with his brother in Washington State.
He says they waited 14 days at the Miguel Aleman-Roma port of entry after two weeks traveling through Central America and Mexico, just to have a customs official hear his claim.
Jose told officials his neighbor was murdered by gangs while his family lives under constant threat.
“Saying a few simple words, claiming a fear of return, is now transforming a straightforward arrest for illegal entry and immediate return, into a prolonged legal process where an alien may be released from custody into the United States and possibly never show up for an immigration hearing,” added Sessions.
Sessions noted the Department of Homeland Security conducted 94,000 credible fear claims in 2016, up from more than 5,000 in 2009.
100 more immigration judges will be added by the end of the year to help with the backlog, said Sessions.
Under this new directive, Alfonso might find it much harder to get a judge to grant his claim.