By: Noelia Rivera-Calderón, Tom Steel FellowPosted on June 26, 2018 Issues: Racial Justice

(CBP Photo by Glenn Fawcett)

Like many of us, I am still in a state of grief and fury over the thousands of infants, toddlers and children separated from their family at the border. The last thing I want to do is face the fact that this is not even the only cruel immigration decision made recently. Unfortunately, as we know, the Trump administration never rests when it comes to terrible policy. And Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent asylum decision is one that cannot be forgotten.

On June 11th, Jeff Sessions reversed previous interpretation of asylum law. Under existing law, a person from a “particular social group” can seek asylum if they can prove that they have a credible fear of violence, and that the government of their home country is unable or unwilling to help them. This had been interpreted to include victims of domestic and gang violence.

Sessions ruled that domestic and gang violence, as “private” forms of violence, will generally no longer meet the standard for asylum. His reasoning? He thinks there is widespread fraud. He believes that those who seek asylum under this criteria—many of them Central American women—are lying.

This is the truth:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) considers violence against women a global epidemic affecting one in three women worldwide. Most of this violence is domestic violence.
  • The number of asylum seekers from Central America has risen dramatically for a reason: their home countries are experiencing record levels of violence. Much of this violence specifically targets women, children, and LGBTQ individuals.
  • Asylum seekers–yes, including those escaping domestic and gang violence!–are often literally fleeing for their lives.
  • It’s not “private violence” when the government lets it happen. Asylum seekers experiencing domestic and gang violence are often not protected by their governments. In contrast, the perpetrators of such violence often are
  • There is no evidence to support the claim that the rise of asylum claims is due to rampant fraud. Immigration judges also already have tools at their disposal to address fraud. They don’t need any extra “help” from Sessions.

Jeff Sessions looks at what is happening and thinks: it can’t be possible that so many people are legitimately fleeing violence. Despite evidence to the contrary, he chooses to ignore the fact that such stories are widespread. Women say they will be raped, will be killed, have been raped, have seen their children and families abused and killed—and he cries fraud. He doesn’t believe them and doesn’t care. Of course, we have always known that his views would put women, girls, and LGBTQ people in danger. This is yet another component of the Trump administration’s unending cruelty toward them.

The tragic truth is that, because of Sessions’ refusal to believe and protect women, more people will die.

Senator Blumenthal said it best: “[This] shameful decision by the Attorney General slams the door in the face of women fleeing brutal violence, LGBT refugees fleeing persecution, and thousands of others seeking safety in the United States.

“[This] decision will send untold numbers of refugees to their deaths. Attorney General Sessions: their blood is on your hands.”

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