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.