In a recent ruling, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ruled that women who were victims of domestic violence, and people fleeing gang violence in their home country, are not eligible for asylum in the U.S. This ruling is now binding on both immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). This decision could also have profound effects on Filipinos who filed for asylum based on their fear the NPA was after them.

By way of background,  the BIA determined in 2014 that a woman who had fled her home country because her husband repeatedly raped her was entitled to asylum because she was a “member of a social group” –  women abused by their husbands in a country with a macho culture. Many other women relied on this case and poured into America, claiming asylum, because they were also being abused by their husbands. Other people claimed that they had been victims of gang violence in their home country, and their government was unable or unwilling to stop or control that violence.

Atty. Gen. Sessions determined that asylum is available only for those people who fear persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. (It could also include other abuses where the home government is unwilling or unable to control those abuses). However, according to Atty. Gen. Sessions, there are no legal grounds for asylum claims based on domestic violence or gang abuse. According to Atty. Gen. Sessions, “the asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune…. The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes – such as domestic violence or gang violence – or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crimes, cannot itself establish an asylum claim.” Moreover, the failure of local police to respond to a report of an individual crime victim, “does not necessarily mean that the government is unwilling or unable to control crime, any more than it would in the United States.”

With this decision, Atty. Gen. Sessions has restricted those people who may be eligible for asylum, and it shows the U.S. government is getting very tough with granting asylum.

In the past, many Filipinos applied for asylum, claiming persecution based on fabricated stories that the NPA was coming after them, or demanding money. They may have been able to obtain work authorization, and so were happy for the time being. But these asylum applicants will eventually be called in for interview, and they will not be able to prove eligibility for asylum. In that situation, their asylum claim would be denied, and they would be placed in removal proceedings.

If you ever applied for political asylum in the past, and you are now seeking other benefits, or if you already have a deportation order based on a denied asylum claim, you should definitely consult with an attorney, who can evaluate your situation, and determine your eligibility for any other benefits and whether it’s safe to apply.

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Michael J. Gurfinkel is licensed, and an active member of the State Bar of California and New York. All immigration services are provided by, or under the supervision of, an active member of the State Bar of California. Each case is different. The information contained herein including testimonials, “Success Stories,” endorsements and re-enactments) is of a general nature, and is not intended to apply to any particular case, and does not constitute a prediction, warranty, guarantee or legal advice regarding the outcome of your legal matter. No attorney-client relationship is, or shall be, established with any reader.

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Atty. Michael Gurfinkel
Atty. Michael Gurfinkel

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