Human Rights First Welcomes Step Toward Repairing the Asylum System

WASHINGTON — Human Rights First welcomed today’s decision by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to vacate rulings in Matter of A-B- and Matter of L-E-A-, a move that will help protect refugees who are persecuted by violent gangs, suffer domestic abuse or are endangered because of their family ties. These Trump-era rulings have been used to justify categorical denial of asylum protection for survivors of such violence and persecution, putting survivors’ lives and safety at grave risk.

“This is great news for people fleeing domestic abuse and gang violence, or who are at risk of violence because of their family ties. Together, the rulings in Matter of A-B- and Matter of L-E-A- caused serious harm to asylum seekers, in particular women, children, and families. The rulings directly violated U.S. obligations under the Refugee Convention and U.S. asylum laws designed to protect them,” said Robyn Baynard, Senior Advocacy Counsel for Refugee Protection at Human Rights First. “Women like the respondent in Matter of A-B-, and many Human Rights First clients, survive horrific persecution and are at risk of death if they cannot flee. It is a great relief to see these decisions vacated and a pathway to safety for more people restored.”

In Matter of A-B-, former Attorney General Sessions arbitrarily declared that survivors of domestic violence would no longer qualify for asylum as a general matter and made sweeping comments about those fleeing gang-related violence, even though that was not the subject of the respondents claim. In Matter of L-E-A-, former Attorney General Barr’s ruling attempted to broadly rule out protection for many families targeted by gangs and other actors because of their family members. This was despite long-established precedent, which the Attorney General acknowledged in this flawed decision, from numerous courts of appeal finding that persecution on account of one’s family could be the basis of an asylum claim.

Human Rights First recently joined more than 350 groups in a letter urging Attorney General Garland to vacate Matter of A-B-, Matter of L-E-A-, and Matter of A-C-A-A- on May 7, 2021.

Human Rights First previously recommended this step in recommendations to the Biden administration. In addition, the organization has repeatedly called on the Biden administration to restore access to asylum and end its misuse of public health authority to expel and ban asylum seekers.


Published on June 16, 2021


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