America's leading non-profit civil liberties organization, ACLU, is suing Jeff Sessions over his asylum directive from June. In a tweet posted on Tuesday, ACLU stated, "We’re suing Jeff Sessions for illegally denying asylum protections to immigrants fleeing domestic and gang violence brutality. These policies undermine the fundamental human rights of women and violate decades of settled asylum law."
In June, the Justice Department under Sessions released a directive expanding on how Trump's attorney general would change the criteria related to applying for asylum — a ruling of particular consequence for Central Americans — in the United States. At the time, Sessions justified the changes by saying "asylum was never meant to alleviate all problems — even all serious problems — that people face every day all over the world."
Under his ruling, Sessions said, "Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum." Another part of Session's ruling states, "The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes — such as domestic violence or gang violence — or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim,"
Since then, ACLU has been clear about its stance on Sessions' move: this would be disastrous for migrant women fleeing domestic and gang violence. Just a month before he released his directive, ACLU legal director David Cole even wrote in May, "Unlike Trump, Sessions has been able to implement major changes to the agency charged with protecting the rights of all Americans, the attorney general may actually be the more dangerous of the two."
For Central American women, Sessions' directive could have fatal results. According to the non-profit Migration Policy Institute, domestic violence is one of the primary forces behind a woman's decision to apply for asylum in the United States. Based on an Amnesty International study the non-profit referred to, Mexican women face particularly harrowing domestic abuse which compels them to apply for refuge in the United States. Between 60 to 80 percent of the asylum-seeking Mexican women are raped, according to Amnesty International's assessment.
Based on Sessions' ruling, those seeking asylum in the United States would also have to prove that their local government failed to consider their need for safety. It's a peculiar and oppressive requisite; women fleeing domestic abuse may not have the means to meet such a demand. Regardless, Sessions' ruling states, "An applicant seeking to establish persecution based on violent conduct of a private actor must show more than the government’s difficulty controlling private behavior. The applicant must show that the government condoned the private actions or demonstrated an inability to protect the victims."
Writing of an indigenous Central American woman given the pseudonym of "Grace," ACLU reported about the oft-grim and distressing realities of domestic abuse in Central America. Without a proper system for asylum, women like "Grace" may never see justice, ACLU added.
"By applying these broad and unjustified changes to the credible fear process," ACLU's Cody Wofsy and Katrina Eiland wrote, "the government is attempting to subvert decades of settled asylum law and setting up asylum seekers like Grace to fail their interviews."