Last Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan struck down a recent policy by the Trump administration which made it more challenging for domestic-abuse and gang-violence victims to claim asylum, determining the policies violated federal immigration law. In addition, he ordered the U.S. government to return deported plaintiffs.
Back in June, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration’s new policy, which declared that asylum should only protect victims of political persecution, as opposed to those dealing with “private violence” that involves members of the household and gangs. He said the federal government is not responsible for immigrants fleeing all forms of tragedy.
Following Sessions’ announcement, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a memo which reiterates the new policy, stating these victims must show that their government is unable or unwilling to protect them from such harm.
However, Sullivan said the administration lacked a legal basis to enforce a ban on asylum claims involving domestic and gang violence. Furthermore, the federal judge wrote that the standard for expedited removal is determined by Congress, not the executive branch, making the recent policy changes unlawful.
Sullivan also blocked the federal government from deporting immigrants and enforcing its own measures without initially determining a lack of credible fear consistent with existing law. He was appointed to his current role by former President Bill Clinton and to other posts by former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration to challenge the Department of Justice’s “expedited removal” policies in court. The plaintiffs consist of 12 adults and minor children who disclosed being victims of beatings, kidnappings, and sexual abuse to U.S. asylum officers. However, their asylum claims were denied due to the policy established in June, although their fears were authentic.
This ruling by the federal judge will most likely be appealed by the federal government. Once it was filed, the DOJ requested Sullivan to put a stay on his ruling pending the government’s decision to appeal and, if the administration does appeal, should continue until the appeal process concludes.