At the Florence Project, we are deeply saddened by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision on June 11, 2018 to bar many from seeking asylum in the United States, including most victims of domestic abuse and gang violence. The Attorney General overruled the Board of Immigration Appeals’ decision in the Matter of A-R-C-G-, and in the process defied decades of legal precedent. The decision considered the case of Ms. A-B-, who fled years of rape and physical abuse by her husband in El Salvador. The Attorney General ruled that asylum applicants who have been the victims of crimes by private actors generally do not qualify for asylum.

We fear that this decision will put many thousands of people in unnecessary danger at the hands of intimate partners, family members, or members of their communities and will harm tens of thousands of immigrants who are currently seeking asylum in the United States. This ruling prejudges entire categories of cases, specifically stating that claims relating to domestic violence and gang violence generally will no longer qualify for asylum. We also fear that it directs asylum officers to deny individuals with such claims the opportunity to see a judge.

At the Florence Project, we see many cases just like that of Ms. A-B-. Thousands of families and children are fleeing unspeakable violence.

For instance, take the story of Katia. Katia, an indigenous woman from Nicaragua, suffered years of abuse at the hands of her husband, Orlin, whom she met and started dating when she was just 18 years old. Although Katia reported the abuse to the police, she never received any help or protection. When Orlin beat their daughter so severely that she passed away, Katia, in immense pain, went into hiding and fled to the United States. After this ruling, it will be nearly impossible for clients like Katia to receive protection and asylum in the United States.

Asylum law has developed and changed based on a changing world, but this decision attempts to turn back the clock on decades of precedent. This decision will surely impact victims of domestic violence and gang violence. It will also potentially undermine many other valid asylum claims in which perpetrators are non-government actors, including victims of violence targeting the LGBTQ community, female genital mutilation, and inter-ethnic violence.

This decision is another in a series of attacks that threatens our clients’ safety and right to a life free from harm, and makes our work all the more difficult yet necessary. Although this week’s news is disheartening and disappointing, we will continue to stand alongside men, women, and children seeking refuge in the United States. Thank you for standing with us and ensuring that hope, justice, and freedom cannot be detained.