Judicial Activism Leads to Asylum Absurdity

An unelected federal judge of the District of Columbia District Court has overturned former Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions’ decision in Matter of A-B-. In that case, AG Sessions held that married women in Guatemala, who experienced difficulty leaving their relationships after accusing their husbands of domestic abuse, do not constitute a cognizable “particular social group” for purposes of granting political asylum.

Judge Emmet Sullivan took particular issue with Sessions’ finding that individuals who are the victims of domestic abuse or gang violence do not, generally, experience persecution as it is defined in the asylum statute. In fact, he ruled that Sessions’ decision was too broad.

According to Judge Sullivan, rather than interpreting the existing law, the former attorney general inappropriately imposed barriers to asylum protection that undermine the objectives Congress sought to achieve in passing the asylum law. Ironically, though, it may be Judge Sullivan who overstepped the boundaries imposed by Congress.

Political asylum was never meant to serve as a catchall form of relief for anyone who lives under unpleasant conditions. For that reason, with very limited exceptions, the victims of crime committed by private parties were never considered eligible for asylum.

That is, until the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), during the Obama administration, decided Matter of A-R-G-C. That case inappropriately expanded asylum protections – without the necessary congressional authorization – to include the victims of domestic abuse and gang violence.

Accordingly, when issuing his decision in Matter of A-B-, Mr. Sessions was not in any way monkeying with long established asylum policies. Rather, he was simply attempting to bring the BIA’s asylum jurisprudence back into accord with the relevant asylum statutes.

And doing so fell well within the powers he was authorized to exercise under the relevant provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act: 8 U.S.C. § 1103 explicitly confers upon the attorney general the authority to review administrative immigration proceedings and issue legal determinations that are binding on the Executive Branch.

But once again, an activist federal judge has refused to accord any deference to Executive Branch experts in immigration law and has issued a ruling that appears to be based on his ideological beliefs, rather than longstanding practice and precedent. In so doing, he has placed the non-existent “rights” of foreign nationals ahead of the Constitution and the president’s authority to administer immigration in an orderly fashion.

It’s difficult to predict how the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, or the Supreme Court might handle this case. But the results of overly expansive asylum protections are easy to forecast.

A recent Gallup poll found that roughly 158 million people want to migrate to the United States. Many of those folks want to emigrate because they are dissatisfied with the way in which the government provides services in their home countries – which are otherwise safe and stable. If Judge Sullivan and his black-robed ideological brethren have their way, a frighteningly large number of people might become eligible for asylum any time their house is robbed or their purse is stolen.

About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.


  1. avatar

    Our congress no longer represents the best interests of our country or our American citizens. Our judiciary no longer functions based on our Constitution but on the personal whims of each specific judge. Even our highest court cannot be counted on to rule based on the constitution and some commonsense without involving themselves in politics, creating law, and establishing new social norms and basing all judgements on their personal whims and ideology. Our governmental agencies have been allowed almost unlimited power to make and implement their own policies based on each director’s personal ideology and pursuit of power. Congress has been, for years but especially during Obama’s reign, abdicating many of its powers to the executive branch and allowing the president’s to do things through Excutive Order that should not happen that way. We, as a people can no longer trust our congress, our judiciary, our FBI, CIA, IRS or any of the agencies, nor the Excutive branch. Our government, as a whole, has become so corrupt, so against every foundation of America, that it is almost unrecognizable today. The rest of the world constantly has its hand out for our money while holding us in great disdain for our weakness, foolishness and how easily we are to manipulate. They secretly delight in watching us actively destroying our country. They laugh to themselves as we deliberately import over a million strangers from strange lands that will do nothing except bring our nation down. They snigger to themselves as the mighty USA refuses to protect its sovereignity and lets 20+ million illegal Mexicans move into our country plus hundreds of thousands of other illegal aliens claiming asylum for just any old reason. They watch with glee as we let a million people annually enter our country that should not, release them with a court date knowing the foolishness of that, and never even considering making any of them leave, but, instead, giving them almost all the rights/benefits/privileges never meant for anyone but USA citizens. The world, who has been exploiting the USA since WW2, can’t understand why our country demeans irself so, allows lesser nations to walk all over us, allows and aids Mexico to openly position itself for its future plans for the USA. No those nations cannot understand why we are so easily giving up our power, our place in the world, literally replacing our people with uncaring foreigners, but secretly they long to see America brought low.

  2. avatar

    Build the Wall

    Then we don’t have them waltzing into America for Catch and Release demands, etc, etc… because of the Open Border Party (OBP) complete obstruction of border security laws.

    • avatar
      salomea Palade on

      Sickening how they distort the laws according to their left wing twists and turns…a divorce would do in that case…what is wrong with u judge? Dementia mayb?

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  4. avatar

    The mother of the 10 year old who just died said that they “heard” that having a child accompany the father would make it easier to stay here and that they came for economic reasons. They were right although it is technically not the law. Because the media and Democrats immediately blame Trump and the Border Patrol, when the parents of these children are ultimately at fault because they are using these children as hostages, with the approval of the open border advocates. It is wintertime. Dragging small children a thousand miles through sparse desert with limited food and water and sleeping in the open is the real crime, not anything done by the Border Patrol. And it’s also on people like Pelosi and Schumer who push this for political reasons. The only remedy available to Trump in the end may be to declare an emergency, which is what this is, and order the army to the border as commander in chief.