The Daily Beast has reported that Trump’s Attorney General Matthew Whitaker looks to ban asylum in the U.S. for victims of domestic violence, including children.
The decision for whether or not to grant asylum is based on what constitutes membership in a “particular social group” (PSG), which is the legal threshold to gain asylum. Last month Whitaker said that he would determine “whether and under what circumstances” being a member of a family qualifies as membership in a PSG.
Immigration attorneys think that Whitaker could move to narrow the definition of PSG drastically and remove protections for victims of domestic violence, including sexual assault.
Jeff sessions, the former Trump AG, tried to remove asylum eligibility for those who were victims of gang and domestic violence. His “self-referral” is now partly on hold due to a judge’s ruling last month. The Trump administration itself has made it more difficult for people to seek asylum in general.
Eileen Sterlock, a Portland-based immigration attorney, said, “Especially when it comes to child abuse cases this is the best mechanism for arguing those cases. Also in incest cases, where a father rapes a daughter, those are really egregious cases and losing that ability to argue a family-based PSG claim is going to make those cases even more difficult.”
Whitaker became involved in a Mexican man’s case whose father was threatened by a drug cartel. The father did not allow the drug cartel to sell drugs out of his store, so cartel members tried to kidnap his son, who is known only by his initials, LEA. LEA says he was targeted because his father refused the demands of the drug cartel, meaning his relationship to his father qualifies him as a member of a particular social group. This was the main reason that he was threatened and seeking asylum.
A Justice Department immigration judge in California denied LEA’s claims, and LEA appealed to the DOJ’s Board of Immigration Appeals. The board agreed with the judge’s determination and sent LEA’s case back to the immigration judge in California. Whitaker then intervened and said he would decide on the case.