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Not Our Citizens Not Our Problem: Sessions to Turn Away Victims of Violence

Instances of violent racism against immigrants are popping up across the nation. And the implication that immigrant lives matter less than those of American citizens is coming right from Trump’s administration.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in newly issued guidance that claims of domestic or gang violence will “generally” no longer be grounds for asylum.

“The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes — such as domestic violence or gang violence — or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim,” Sessions wrote.

Sessions vacated a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals, an arm of the Department of Justice, that granted a woman entry to the United States after suffering years of spousal abuse.

Experts slammed the attorney general’s decision. Beth Werlin, executive director for the American Immigration Council, called the guidance “yet another attempt to close our doors.”

“Turning our backs on victims of violence and deporting them to grave danger should not be the legacy sought by any administration,” she said.

Karen Musalo, director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, called Sessions’ ordinance a “shameful” return to the past.

“Today’s ruling marks a shameful attempt by Sessions to return us to an era when the United States did not recognize women’s rights as human rights, and women fleeing horrific gender-based persecution were wrongfully denied refugee protection,” she said.

Activists are not alone in their anger. A group of 15 retired immigration judges penned an open letter to Sessions. According to the judges, Sessions’ decision simply doesn’t make sense.

“For reasons understood only by himself, the Attorney General today erased an important legal development that was universally agreed to be correct,” the judges stated. “Today we are deeply disappointed that our country will no longer offer legal protection to women seeking refuge from terrible forms of domestic violence from which their home countries are unable or unwilling to protect them.”

The Justice Department’s latest document falls in line with the “zero tolerance” mindset that the Trump administration will likely be remembered for. Per new guidelines, anyone crossing the border — even if they are seeking asylum or traveling with children — will be considered criminals.

And it’s not only the adults Trump’s team is making suffer. Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon and a frequent Trump critic, took a trip to the border to see the conditions of the centers that house undocumented children.

Photos of immigration facilities with children held in cages recently circulated, and Democrats were quick to use them as leverage against the Trump administration. Criticism died down after it was discovered that these photos were actually taken during the Obama era. But Merkley said on CNN that “hundreds of children” remain caged at a Texas center.

Merkley was not permitted to take photos of the McAllen, Texas, facility he visited. But he described what he saw inside.

“When I was at the center at McAllen Border Station, this is the processing center, earlier and I was admitted there and I did see the people, hundreds of children locked up in cages there at that facility,” he said on CNN.

“They have big cages made out of fencing and then wire and nets stretched across the top of them so people can’t climb out of them,” he added.

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