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The Federal Courts Have Blocked Trump’s Attempt at New and More Difficult Rules for Asylum Seekers

New York Asylum Seekers

In a ruling that can greatly assist New York asylum seekers, a Federal Court imposed a nationwide injunction stopping Justice Department policies making it harder for immigrants to claim political asylum because of domestic violence or gang violence. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan found that the new policies which had the effect of impeding many Central and South American asylum seekers were a violation of existing law relating to claims for political asylum. The harsher new standards imposed by a decision by former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions were ruled by District Court Judge Sullivan to be “arbitrary, capricious and in violation of the immigration laws.” Judge Sullivan’s decision will also require deported asylum applicants to be able to obtain new interviews.

The new standards were espoused by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in August, 2018 in a decision named Matter of A-B-; that decision sought to overturn a body of law which allowed victims of non-state violence to be considered as members of a persecuted class and thus eligible for asylum. The ruling found that the administration overstepped its authority in imposing a stricter standard that rejected gang and domestic violence as legitimate grounds for asylum petitions. Based on a history of individualized consideration for asylum claims, the Federal court ruled that Sessions exceeded his authority in revising asylum standards and that there was not a “legal basis for an effective categorical ban” on asylum claims based on personal violence.

“It is the will of Congress — not the whims of the Executive—that determines the standard for expedited removal, the Court finds that those policies are unlawful,” wrote Sullivan in his decision. He also permanently barred the government “from continuing to apply those policies and from removing plaintiffs who are currently in the United States without first providing credible fear determinations consistent with the immigration laws.”

The ruling related to asylum seekers who had received positive “credible fear” determinations from asylum officers, but subject to expedited removal after failing to meet the stricter standard. The ruling will allow claims to be considered under the standards created over many years allowing the many New York asylum seekers who are fleeing gang related and domestic violence in their home countries. The decision goes further than merely stopping the application on the stricter standard, as the injunction requires reconsideration of asylum seekers who were deported under the new interpretation. Those asylum seekers who were unlawfully deported must be permitted to “return to the United States” and obtain “new credible fear determinations consistent with the immigration laws.”

Judge Sullivan was disturbed that the United States had deported a mother and daughter to El Salvador after the mother fled “horrific” sexual abuse at the hands of her husband and both received death threats from a local gang. Sullivan ordered her return as well as prohibited the US government from deporting any other plaintiffs while the case was pending.

For New York asylum seekers from Central and South America, this ruling is good news in the otherwise harsh climate of the interpretation and execution of asylum laws.


In another loss to the Trump Administration’s effort to limit claims of political asylum, the Supreme Court refused to permit immediate application of its new policy of denying asylum to migrants who illegally cross the Mexican border. President Trump made by proclamation a new rule that only migrants who arrived in the United States legally or applied at a port of entry would be eligible for asylum. The Supreme Court blocked that new rule. Chief Justice Roberts was the deciding vote ruling against the President’s efforts to limit immigration. Judge Jon S. Tigar of the United States District Court in San Francisco issued a temporary restraining order blocking application of the rules nationwide and thereafter entered a preliminary injunction.

Judge Tigar, similar to Judge Sullivan, condemned the President’s efforts to rewrite immigration laws in the realm of political asylum and his attempts to exert power which belongs to the legislative branch, noting that “whatever the scope of the president’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden.”

Against the government’s harsh view of asylum applicants, these cases prove that competent legal representation is critical to those who have valid claims of political asylum. Should you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to our office. We have been helping asylum seekers for over six decades.

New York Asylum Seekers

New York immigration lawyer Jennifer Oltarsh provides a large variety of immigration law services.  If you or a loved one are in need of immigration services call Oltarsh & Associates today at (212) 944-9420

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