In a brutal confirmation of the Trump administration's callousness toward the safety or welfare of people fleeing frightful situations and trying to enter the U.S., Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered immigration judges to stop granting asylum to people who are victims of gang violence or domestic abuse.
"While I do not decide that violence inflicted by non-governmental actors may never serve as the basis for an asylum or withholding application based on membership in a particular social group, in practice such claims are unlikely to satisfy the statutory grounds for proving group persecution that the government is unable or unwilling to address", he said.
Such a group can not be overly broad or diffuse, Sessions said, overruling a previous asylum decision which accepted married women who are victims of violent relationships as a persecuted group.
Dan Kowalski, editor of Bender's Immigration Bulletin, said the decision, subject to appeal in federal appeals court, could affect tens of thousands of people claiming asylum on grounds of domestic violence.
"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", Sessions' opinion reads.
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 AG is sending a clear signal that he does not think these are legitimate asylum cases and that they should not even be considered", she said.
The policy, meant to be a deterrent, has sparked strong criticism and an accusation from the UN Human Rights Office that children's rights are being violated by the policy. However, as the United States' chief law enforcement officer, the attorney general can intercede in its decisions to shape law.
He remanded the case of A-B- back to Judge Stuart Couch in Charlotte, North Carolina, for further proceedings.
Sessions also said it was the "duty" of judges to follow his orders and carry out his interpretation of the law.