Kevin D. Liles for NPR
Survivors of domestic violence and gangs stand a better chance of securing asylum in the United States as the Justice Department overturns several controversial decisions by the Trump administration.
In a pair of rulings announced on Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland overturns several controversial legal decisions made by his predecessors – in effect restoring the possibility of asylum protections for women fleeing domestic violence in other countries and some victims of the gang violence.
“These decisions involve important questions about the meaning of our nation’s asylum laws, which reflect America’s commitment to providing refuge for some of the world’s most vulnerable people,” the Associate Attorney General wrote. Vanita Gupta in a note explaining the decisions to the country’s immigration judges.
Biden signed an executive order in February asking his administration to rewrite the asylum rules. But this process will take months, if not years. Immigrant advocates have warned survivors of abuse still risk deportation and urged the attorney general to take swift action in the meantime.
Wednesday’s decisions essentially mean that asylum rules will revert to what they were before former President Trump took office. The cases, known as the AB Case and the LEA Case, were both decided by attorneys general during the Trump administration.
Trump has often called the asylum a “scam” and his administration has taken numerous steps to limit asylum protections for migrants arriving at the southern border.
“The asylum system is being abused to the detriment of the rule of law,” then Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a 2018 speech when he argued that there are certain social ills that the United States simply cannot solve.
“Asylum was never meant to alleviate all the problems – even all the serious problems – that people face every day all over the world,” Sessions said.
In the process, immigrant advocates say Sessions rolled back US law. They say many women still face persecution in countries where police will not protect them from abusive partners, including Ms. AB, the woman at the center of the case that bears her name. She says she had no choice but to leave El Salvador and seek protection in the United States
“We are running away from the possibility of being murdered,” she said in Spanish through an interpreter in an interview earlier this year. “I was able to escape, but many died, many people are no longer there to tell their story.”