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Legal Review: Jeff Sessions Implements Asylum Policy that Could Violate International Laws

By Virginia Immigration Attorney Natalia Segermeister with The Visa Firm of Price Benowitz LLP.

As more people request protection from persecution through asylum at the United States border, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has implemented new policies to make it even more difficult for them. The moves that are being made may not only violate international laws, they are also being touted as being ‘morally bankrupt.’

It was in May that the attorney general with the Department of Homeland Security implemented the zero-tolerance policy for those found to be trying to cross the United States border illegally.

It was this policy that has seen many prosecuted for crossing between ports of entry and has separated children from their family members. When the children are removed from the family, parents are left with no recourse and no way to contact or reunite with their children.

After the zero-tolerance policy was implemented, Jeff Sessions then changed the policies on what is considered valid reasons for claiming asylum.

While gang and domestic violence were once allowed as a basis for asylum if one could demonstrate that the harm suffered was on account of a membership in a particular social group, Sessions is stating that those claims should no longer be considered. The reasoning being that these claims founded on violence inflicted by non-governmental actors does not satisfy the requirement that the motivation for the persecution is group membership.

“This change is one that many are pointing to, stating that it violates international law. In most of these cases, those claiming these kinds of persecutions are not being given a chance to state their case and address the group membership component.” says Asylum Attorney Natalia Segermeister of the Visa Firm of Price Benowitz.

The new policies are meant to deter others that wish to cross the border illegally, but it does not seem to be working. In fact, the amount of arrests made for crossing between ports of entry has increased every month for the past three consecutive months.

But that is secondary to the serious consequences pediatricians say the children taken from their families will endure. Not only do they not know where their parents are or when they will see them again, they are also being held in detention centers with substandard care.

In addition to these new policies, Republicans in Congress have stood behind the new policies intended to deter all immigration. In a new proposed bill, they also continue to make it more difficult for asylum seekers that are trying to get the protection their families need.

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