U.S. attorney general curbs asylum for immigrant victims of violence

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The move overruled a Board of Immigration Appeals decision in 2016 that gave asylum status to a woman from El Salvador who fled her husband.

"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, can not itself establish an asylum claim", he continued.

"It puts survivors of extreme domestic violence in great danger, because it allows them to be returned to countries where their governments do not protect them against this abuse", said Denise Gilman, director of the immigration clinic at the University of Texas Law School in Austin.

Fifteen former immigration judges signed a letter calling Mr Sessions' decision "an affront to the rule of law".

Trump and Sessions like to talk tough about crime, and particularly gang violence.

In a speech to immigration judges in Virginia, Sessions revealed he will be making a decision Monday to '"restore the strong principles of asylum" and immigration law.

Such cases can be appealed to the circuit courts, which are part of the judicial branch of government. It overturns a 2014 ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals, which held that domestic violence victims from Central American countries could qualify for asylum in the US.

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In the USA, foreign nationals can qualify for asylum if they are able to establish that they would be persecuted in their home country based on their religion, race, nationality, political beliefs or "membership in a particular social group".

Immigrants say they have credible fear about returning to their home countries, so border agents have no choice but to place them in asylum proceedings.

"The vast majority of the current asylum claims are not valid, " Sessions told an audience that included 18 immigration judges recently assigned to detention centres near the U.S. However, as the United States' chief law enforcement officer, the attorney general can intercede in its decisions to shape law.

But in the ruling, Sessions said such cases would be less common going forward.

He remanded the case of A-B- back to Judge Stuart Couch in Charlotte, North Carolina, for further proceedings.

The Trump administration has accused migrants of exploiting the asylum system to gain entry to the United States, aware that the immigration courts are so backlogged that their cases could take years to complete.

Earlier this year, Sessions declared he would attempt to ensure that every person who crosses the border illegally would be prosecuted, and he has staunchly defended a new policy of separating women and children at the border, including those seeking asylum.

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