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New Guidance: Domestic Violence, Gang Asylum Claims at the U.S. Border

New Guidance Requires Fair Process for Domestic Violence, Gang Asylum Claims at the Border

San Francisco, CA (January 14, 2019) – The Center for Gender & Refuge Studies (CGRS) is pleased to share the government’s new guidance for asylum cases which clarifies that there is no blanket rule against claims involving applicants fleeing domestic violence and gang violence. The guidance was issued in accordance with U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan’s recent ruling in Grace v. Whitaker.

The Grace lawsuit, filed by CGRS and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last summer, challenged the implementation of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Matter of A-B- decision in credible fear proceedings. Under U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) guidance issued after A-B-, many asylum officers and immigration judges had been rejecting survivors of domestic violence and gang violence at this initial screening stage, returning countless asylum seekers to the risk of life-threatening harm.

In his December decision Judge Sullivan ruled that key legal interpretations in Matter of A-B- and related USCIS policy memos were arbitrary, capricious, and unlawful. He granted our request for a permanent injunction, blocking asylum officers and immigration judges conducting credible fear interviews and review hearings from implementing them. Notably, Judge Sullivan ruled that each case must be considered on its own facts, and that there can be no general rule against asylum claims based on domestic violence and gang violence in the credible fear screening process. He also rejected the government’s attempt to impose a heightened legal standard in cases involving violence perpetrated by nongovernment actors, such as intimate partners and members of criminal organizations.

The new guidance brings the government into compliance with the Court’s order and requires that asylum officers and immigration judges provide a fair process for asylum seekers in credible fear proceedings, including those presenting themselves at our southern border. CGRS encourages advocates representing individuals at all stages of the asylum process to review the new guidance closely and to contact CGRS for our most up-to-date litigation resources and practice pointers.

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