William Barr finds another way to be cruel to people fleeing violence


On Monday, Attorney General William Barr drastically limited asylum claims based on family relationships.

In keeping with the Trump administration's hatred of immigrants, Attorney General William Barr just further narrowed the class of people eligible for asylum. Now, immigrants who have been persecuted based on their familial relationships are not necessarily eligible for asylum.

On Monday, Barr reversed a 2018 decision from the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The 2018 ruling held that a Mexican man, "L-E-A," had a legitimate fear he was in danger based on his membership in a particular social group (PSG) — his immediate family.

The man's father had faced death threats from a cartel after he refused to let dealers use his store to sell drugs. After that refusal, L-E-A was shot at, and the cartel attempted to kidnap him.

Asylum-seekers must prove that they have a "credible fear of persecution" in their country of residence. That credible fear must be based on the individual's race, religion, nationality, membership in a PSG, or political opinion.

Prior to Monday's decision, a PSG included one's immediate family in these circumstances. Now, though, that isn't enough. Barr concluded that a family "will not constitute a particular social group unless it has been shown to be socially distinct in the eyes of its society, not just those of its alleged persecutor."

In other words, our government's position is that L-E-A wasn't persecuted because he was related to his father. He was persecuted because he didn't want to participate in the drug trade, and that isn't enough for asylum.

Barr's decision doesn't just have terrible implications for people facing gang violence. It's also a problem for people making a request for asylum based on being victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence claims for asylum are often based on alleging that membership in one's family is what leads to the fear of harm.

Barr's actions are an extension of those of his predecessor, Jeff Sessions. In 2018, Sessions issued a decision that said that domestic and gang violence didn't necessarily count as state-sanctioned violence, thereby making asylum claims more difficult.

Monday's decision also builds on one of Barr's recent rulings. In April of this year, Barr issued an order that allows the government to jail asylum-seekers indefinitely even after they've established a credible fear of prosecution. Thankfully, that decision has been blocked by the courts for now.

The Trump administration is going to keep chipping away at how people can claim asylum, all in service to Trump's racist beliefs about who should live in America.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.