As the Caravan Hits the Border, Jeff Sessions Moves to Tighten Asylum Rules

Press Releases

April 30, 2018

IRLI submits brief to AG on stopping “unprincipled definition creep”

WASHINGTON—The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) answered the call of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and submitted a friend-of-the-court brief on whether victims of private criminal activity should be considered a “particular social group” for asylum law purposes. To qualify for asylum in the U.S., an alien must meet the definition of “refugee” by proving persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. U.S. refugee law does not protect people from general conditions of strife, such as crime and other societal afflictions.

In its brief, IRLI shows that victims of private criminal activity do not form a “particular social group” for the purposes of asylum. Victims of private criminal activity cannot prove that they suffered harm because of their group membership, nor prove that the government is unwilling or unable to control those who committed the crimes against them. Also, crime victims are not recognized as a distinctive social group in any society.

IRLI also shows that the problem persists if the group is further defined as it was in this case, to include only “El Salvadoran women who are unable to leave their domestic relationships where they have children in common.” The domestic abuse members of this group suffer is not motivated by their membership in the group. Furthermore, relocation in their home country is frequently an option for victims of domestic abuse; it is not necessary for their safety that they move to the United States. On the same basis, IRLI argues that an earlier case in which the Board of Immigration Appeals granted asylum to victims of domestic abuse in Guatemala was wrongly decided.

“The Board has been expanding the ‘particular social group’ category for years, and we finally have an Attorney General who is willing to put a stop to the unprincipled definition creep,” commented Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “Unless that’s done, the ‘particular social group’ category will be stretched into a catch-all provision that covers virtually any alien who suffered harm in his or her home country. That’s not a workable standard, and it robs the concept of asylum of all meaning.”

For additional information, contact: Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • [email protected]

Get Connected

Sign up for our email newsletter to stay up to date with immigration reform in the United States.

Attorneys United for a Secure America (AUSA) is a non-partisan affiliation of talented attorneys dedicated to pursuing cases that serve the national interest when it comes to immigration law.

If you are interested in joining the network, visit the AUSA website.