Court Rules Trump Policies Denying Asylum Protections to People Fleeing Domestic and Gang Violence Are Illegal

Washington, D.C. (December 19, 2018) – A federal court has struck down Trump administration policies that sought to gut asylum protections for immigrants fleeing domestic violence and gang brutality.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) challenged the administration’s new “expedited removal” policies when they were put forth by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this year. The policies applied to recently arrived immigrants who express fear of returning to their home countries while in summary removal proceedings.

Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., held that the policies, which instructed asylum officers to “generally” deny such domestic violence and gang violence-related claims, violate immigration laws. The court explained that “there is no legal basis for an effective categorical ban” on such claims and granted the request for a permanent injunction against the policies.

“This ruling is a defeat for the Trump administration’s all-out assault on the rights of asylum seekers. The government’s attempt to obliterate asylum protections is unlawful and inconsistent with our country’s longstanding commitment to provide protection to immigrants fleeing for their lives,” said Jennifer Chang Newell, managing attorney of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued the case.

The plaintiffs include women who have endured extensive persecution in the form of sexual and physical violence. Fearing they would be killed, along with their young children, they sought refuge in the U.S. But under the new policies, even though government officials found the accounts credible, they concluded the women did not have a “credible fear of persecution” and ordered them to be sent back to the countries where they face grave harm.

In his ruling, Sullivan emphasized that “because it is the will of Congress — not the whims of the Executive — that determines the standard for expedited removal, the Court finds that those policies are unlawful.”

U.S. law requires that, at a minimum, any newly arrived immigrant who expresses fear of return to their home county be given a screening interview with an asylum officer to determine whether they have a “credible fear of persecution.” Those who pass the credible fear interview are taken out of the expedited removal system and can pursue their asylum claims in full trial-type hearings in immigration court.

“Judge Sullivan’s decision ensures that our asylum system remains open to refugees at our border, including those fleeing domestic violence and gang violence. These individuals raise legitimate claims under U.S. and international law, and have an unequivocal right to seek asylum. I am thrilled that the court’s order upholds that right,” said Eunice Lee, co-legal director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies.

The lawsuit is Grace v. Whitaker. Co-counsel are the ACLU, ACLU of Texas, ACLU of D.C., and CGRS.

The ruling is at:


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4 thoughts on “Court Rules Trump Policies Denying Asylum Protections to People Fleeing Domestic and Gang Violence Are Illegal

  1. Melani,

    People fleeing gangs or domestic violence are not lawful refugees or asylees because They do not belong to a specific group such as an ethnic group or a religious group or even the gay and lesbian community that is facing specific persecution.

    Whether you realize it or not, you are being dishonest. On the one hand you seek to reassure people like me that fewer than 1% to 8% of all asylum-seekers actually receive a cylon. That’s true: under current laws.

    But then you advocate for a ridiculous extension of the law that will make everyone a lawful refugee. Under your argument not only are all 7000 caravan members “lawful refugees,” but all 6.6 million Hondurans can show up at our border and we must admit them and give them asylum. In fact, under your argument, all 620 million people living in Latin America have the absolute, unfettered the right to come to the United States and stay as long for refugees. You then argued that we must feed them, close them, shelter them, educate them, and medicate them.

    That will overwhelm our nation and exhausted our resources.

    1. You are so so so wrong. yes they do belong to a class of persecuted. And our Courts have recognized that for a long time – hence precedent. You should know precedent is law….

      1. Melanie,

        Bad precedence makes bad law, but what “classes” do you refer to? “Every woman ever?” “Everyone who lives in Latin America?” Those are not groups or classes.

        And that underscores the point that you refused to answer my other questions: If we accept such overly-broad definitions, then isn’t EVERY SINGLE HONDURAN a “lawful” refugee or asylee? Aren’t all 620,000,000 people living in Latin America?

        If so, then how come only 1%-8% of applicants approved, by your own claim? How can we have any expedited returns of migrants to Mexico? Gang violence is rampant, there, and I stipulate that.

        1. 1 to 8% approved is a result of credibility issues – and difficulties in proving one’s claim. If you say CLASS of women is everyone – then yes we should take in every woman where their lawlessness allows such! No excuses! Its not everyone in truth and reality though! That said what you worried about if there is only a max at 8% grant rate – does that not make people like you feel better? Does tat not mean the system works the way it should? does that not mean the system serves to veto properly? Does thAt not mean it is OK 100% if people apply because the system vests out the non credible? So to try and mitigate the right to apply is not the answer as you seem to want to support.

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