On Monday, June 11, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a decision overturning former precedent from the Board of Immigration Appeals in a case called Matter of A-B-. The decision essentially says that domestic violence victims and other victims of crimes perpetrated by private, non-government actors do not generally qualify for asylum.
Unfortunately, news agencies are not trained in immigration law and even when they consult with attorneys and experts in the field, snippets from news reports usually do not and cannot communicate the full effects that this decision, and others like it, will have in general. Certainly, news reports cannot tell you how this decision will affect your individual case and circumstances. As always, if you have questions or concerns about how your individual case is affected, it is best to hire competent legal counsel and to meet with your attorney to address those questions.
To answer some of the more often asked questions following the Attorney General's decision, we have prepared the following answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ).
Does this mean that I cannot qualify for asylum as a victim of domestic violence?
Not necessarily, but it does make qualifying for asylum much more difficult. A longstanding principle of asylum law is that every single asylum case must be carefully considered on its own merits. As such, even though domestic violence victims do not generally qualify for asylum, there may be arguments in specific cases. Furthermore, just because a person may not qualify for asylum because she is a victim of domestic violence does not mean that she cannot qualify on other grounds.
Does this mean that I cannot qualify for asylum as a victim of gang violence?
Not necessarily. As with the domestic violence question, this decision does not necessarily mean that you cannot win your case as a victim of gang violence but cases of this nature will be significantly harder to win. Even prior to this decision asylum was difficult to obtain when the claim was based only on gang violence. However, every individual case is different and there may be other grounds under which you may qualify.
When does this decision take effect?
The decision is effective immediately.
Is this decision final?
No. The Attorney General is the head of the Department of Justice, which oversees the immigration courts and is why the Attorney General had the authority to issue his decision. But it is subject to appeal. As such, it is almost certain that the precedent set by this decision will be litigated by the federal courts, which are part of the judicial branch of government and are independent of the Attorney General, who is part of the executive branch of government.
I have filed for a U Visa/VAWA as a victim of domestic violence. How does this affect my case?
It doesn't The U Visa and VAWA petitions are adjudicated by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") which is part of the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS"). The Attorney General is in charge of the Department of Justice ("DOJ"), a separate agency. As such, the Attorney General's decision has no direct effect on those seeking U status or residency through VAWA.
If I no longer qualify for asylum, what are my options?
Each case is unique and needs to be addressed on its own merits. As such, it is important that you consult with a qualifed attorney to understand whether there is still a path forward for asylum and, if not, your attorney can discuss the other forms of relief that may apply given your specific circumstances.
The information contained in this FAQ is for informational purposes only. As always, it is best to consult directly with an attorney to understand the full impacts of this, and any other recent decisions, on your individual case. To schedule a consult with one of our experienced attorneys, please call us at (804) 377-7247.