Immigrants to this country have been concerned and sometimes frightened by the actions of our current president. So have those who are seeking asylum here to escape violence and persecution in their countries -- and sometimes in their own homes.
The number of people applying for asylum has increased significantly in recent years. Now U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is working to change the qualifications for being granted asylum.
Not all victims of crime in other countries are eligible for asylum. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), they must have "suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution" because of their religion, nationality, race, political opinion or "membership in a particular social group." A landmark ruling in 2014 facilitated the ability of domestic violence survivors to gain asylum.
Sessions claims that there has been "rampant fraud and abuse" in asylum applications. He said, "The system is being gamed, there's no doubt about it." He says that fraudulent applications for asylum are creating a backlog of over 600,000 cases in the immigration courts.
Many of these cases involve women and children fleeing increasing gang violence as well as domestic violence in Central America. In domestic violence cases, sometimes fleeing the abuser isn't enough. They can still be in danger from their abuser's family if they remain in their home country.
Sessions, who has asked Congress to make asylum requirements stricter, has now taken action on his own, intervening in two cases so far. In one case, he is determining whether victims of "private crime" should be able to qualify for asylum. Some immigration attorneys are concerned that Sessions could overturn that 2014 ruling.
In the other case, he vacated another landmark ruling that allowed most people whose asylum applications were denied to have a court hearing. Since immigration courts are under the purview of the Department of Justice, the AG has the authority to overturn decisions by these courts.
Immigration lawyers across the country are concerned about the impact that Sessions' decisions will have on what one termed "amongst the most vulnerable people in our society," If you or someone you care about is seeking asylum, an experienced Maryland immigration attorney can provide important guidance and help.
Source: National Public Radio, "Trump Administration Moves To Reshape Who Qualifies For Asylum," Joel Rose, March 12, 2018