FALLS CHURCH, Va. (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Monday he will issue a decision on asylum policies that will “restore the sound principles of asylum and longstanding principles of immigration law.”
In a speech at the department’s Executive Office For Immigration Review, Sessions said immigrants were taking advantage of the asylum system “to the detriment of the rule of law,” and said his ruling will provide more clarity for immigration judges ruling on the validity of claims.
Sessions did not elaborate on what decision he was referring to and a Justice Department spokesman did not provide any details.
The head of the immigration judges union, however, told Reuters she believes Sessions is referring to a crucial case known as the “Matter of A-B-,” about a woman from El Salvador who is seeking asylum after she was raped and beaten by her ex-husband.
“We haven’t been given that decision,” said Judge Ashley Tabaddor, president of the immigration judges’ union. “We’ve been asking around and it hasn’t been made public yet, as far as I know.”
Unlike the federal judiciary system, the U.S. immigration courts fall under the jurisdiction of the Justice Department and the attorney general can intervene in cases to change legal precedents that have been decided by the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Sessions has been unusually active in this practice compared to his predecessors by exercising his intervention authority to make it tougher for some people to legally remain in the United States.
In the case of AB, which are the woman’s initials, Sessions’ decision could have potentially far-reaching consequences for women and children immigrants seeking asylum to escape domestic violence in their home countries.
Tabaddor said she believed a “noteworthy amount” of people could be impacted.
“It’s definitely a common claim coming from Central America,” she said.
President Donald Trump has long called for an overhaul of the U.S. asylum system, citing a more than tenfold rise in asylum claims since 2011 and rallying against so-called catch and release policies that allow some immigrants to remain in the United States while they await court hearings in a clogged legal system.
Reporting by Reade Levinson and Sarah N. Lynch, additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg, editing by G Crosse