ACLU to sue Sessions for changing asylum protections for immigrants fleeing violence

ACLU to sue Sessions for changing asylum protections for immigrants fleeing violence
© Greg Nash

The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday said it is suing Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE for restricting the causes for which a migrant can be granted asylum in the U.S.

“We’re suing Jeff Sessions for illegally denying asylum protections to immigrants fleeing domestic violence and gang brutality," the ACLU said in a tweet. "These policies undermine the fundamental human rights of women and violate decades of settled asylum law.”

The controversy surrounds recent Justice Department changes limiting what qualifies as “credible fear,” or the circumstances that would provide the bases for granting asylum.


Historically, fleeing domestic violence or gang warfare were considered reason enough to grant migrants asylum. However, Sessions changed that policy.

“Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum,” he wrote to immigration judges last month.

The ACLU says they are suing on behalf of a woman identified as "Grace" and a group of other asylum seekers largely comprised of women and children from Central America.

The group says Grace fled Guatemala after being raped and beaten by an abusive partner and that her asylum claim was denied upon arrival to the U.S. The ACLU claims she now faces deportation.

“By applying these broad and unjustified changes to the credible fear process, the government is attempting to subvert decades of settled asylum law and setting up asylum seekers like Grace to fail their interviews," the ACLU said in a statement.

"For example, gender-based persecution has been recognized as a basis for asylum for decades. However, Sessions has declared that the plight of domestic and gang violence survivors is ‘merely personal.’”

Updated at 6:02 p.m.