U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday overturned a grant of asylum to a Salvadoran domestic abuse victim, potentially excluding immigrants seeking refuge from sexual, gang and other forms of violence in their home countries.
The decision to refuse asylum to the Salvadoran woman, whose former husband raped and beat her for 15 years, narrows who can qualify for asylum when they become victims of criminal activity, as opposed to government persecution.
Sessions’ finding followed his unusual move to intervene personally in the case known as the “Matter of A-B-.” The woman, who is only identified by her initials, had won an appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which had overturned a lower immigration court judge’s denial of her asylum petition.
“I understand that many victims of domestic violence may seek to flee from their home countries to extricate themselves from a dire situation or to give themselves the opportunity for a better life,” he continued. “But the ‘asylum statute is not a general hardship statute,’” he said, citing an earlier immigration case.
An attorney for A-B, Karen Musalo, called the decision “devastating” and said it had been anguishing for her client.