Barr reverses ruling on asylum for those with persecuted family members

Attorney General William BarrBill BarrCNN legal analyst joins DOJ's national security division Barr threatened to resign over Trump attempts to fire Wray: report DOJ faces big decision on home confinement MORE on Monday reversed a 2018 immigration board ruling that found that a migrant whose immediate family member was persecuted in their home country may be able to claim asylum.

The order is yet another hit to the United States' asylum laws and the most recent action taken by U.S. authorities in recent weeks that would affect asylum rules and procedures. 

In this latest decision, Barr effectively tightened a measure in the Immigration and Nationality Act that states a migrant can be granted asylum if they show they have been or will be persecuted because of “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”


Barr wrote that the Board of Immigration Appeals has previously found that those in a “particular social group” under asylum laws must share “a common immutable characteristic.”

“The fact that a criminal group — such as a drug cartel, gang, or guerrilla force — targets a group of people does not, standing alone, transform those people into a particular social group,” the decision reads.

The order states that the immigration board had “improperly” decided a 2018 case, in which a migrant had claimed asylum due to persecution, stating that his father, who owned a store, was targeted by a local drug cartel. The migrant said that qualified as “membership in a particular social group,” as laid out in the immigration law.

“Consistent with these prior decisions, I conclude that an alien’s family-based group will not constitute a particular social group unless it has been shown to be socially distinct in the eyes of its society, not just those of its alleged persecutor,” the attorney general’s decision reads.

“Because the record does not support the determination in this case that the immediate family of the respondent’s father constituted a particular social group, I reverse the Board’s conclusion to the contrary.”

Barr earlier this year also issued an order that reversed a 2005 Board of Immigration Appeals ruling that found asylum-seekers could be released on bond if they are able to show they have credible fear of persecution or danger in their home countries.

But that effort has been tied up in the courts after a district court judge blocked the order from going into effect, finding it unconstitutional to indefinitely detain the asylum-seekers. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month declined to issue a stay on that ruling.

The order also plays out on the backdrop of the Trump administration's larger crackdown on asylum laws, as lawmakers have made little progress on legislation on the topic.

The House departed Washington last week for recess and won't return until September.

The administration issued a rule earlier this month that would block migrants who pass through another country before arriving at the U.S.'s southern border from being able to claim asylum. But that policy has already been temporarily blocked by a federal district judge in San Francisco.

Officials also announced last week that they would expand expedited removal authorities for immigration officers, making it easier to deport immigrants who are unable to immediately prove that they’ve been in the U.S. for two years. Groups have also promised to challenge that new policy in court.