The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday against Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other Trump administration officials for refusing to consider cases of domestic violence and gang brutality for asylum.
In June, Sessions overturned a policy that included domestic and gang violence in a list of criteria for asylum seekers. According to the policy, migrants must show “credible fear” of returning to their country of origin based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a social group.
“Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum,” Sessions wrote in June, according to the Washington Post. Sessions’s decision on asylum cases followed the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of detaining migrants at the border, along with its family-separation practice.
However, the ACLU said Sessions’s denial of asylum protections to immigrants fleeing violence, including domestic and gang violence, is illegal. “These policies undermine the fundamental human rights of women and violate decades of settled asylum law,” the nonprofit wrote on Twitter.
The group filed its lawsuit on behalf of 12 Central American migrants who failed “credible fear” interviews, New York Magazine reported. One plaintiff said she fled Guatemala after her partner physically assaulted her and her children, and sexually assaulted her and her daughter.
Another plaintiff in the case, reported by Politico, said a drug-trafficking gang killed her father-in-law and beat her “so badly that she could not walk the next day.” She said the gang threatened to rape and mutilate her.
“By applying these broad and unjustified changes to the credible fear process, the government is attempting to subvert decades of settled asylum law and setting up asylum seekers […] to fail their interviews,” the ACLU said, adding that “gender-based persecution has been recognized as a basis for asylum for decades.”