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How Trump’s Attorneys General are transforming U.S. immigration law - REUTERS

APRIL 19, 2019

By Reade Levinson and Ally J. Levine


Under U.S. President Donald Trump, the attorney general’s office has reshaped immigration law at an unprecedented rate. Unlike the federal judiciary system, U.S. immigration courts fall under the Justice Department’s jurisdiction, and the attorney general can intervene in cases to set national legal precedent.

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his successors have been unusually active in this practice compared to their predecessors, a Reuters analysis of Justice Department data shows. The data describe an unprecedented effort by the Justice Department to quietly advance policy goals and transform immigration law from the top down.

 

Note: Reuters counted any time the Attorney General issued a decision, including vacating or affirming a prior Board of Immigration Appeals decision, as well as cases that have been referred for review but have not been decided. The count did not include matters that were remanded back to the immigration court without a decision by the Attorney General.

In one case, Sessions overturned a grant of asylum to a victim of domestic violence from El Salvador. He wrote in his ruling in the case, known as Matter of A-B-, that most gang and domestic violence victims will not qualify for asylum under his narrowed definition. That decision, however, was struck down by a U.S. federal judge.

In four other cases in 2018, Sessions issued decisions restricting the discretion of immigration judges to put off final deportation hearings by continuing, closing or dismissing proceedings.


After stepping in as acting attorney general in November, Matthew Whitaker continued in Sessions’ footsteps and singled out three immigration cases for review.

One case, known as the Matter of L-E-A-, concerns whether a man who fled a kidnapping attempt by cartels in Mexico qualifies for asylum. Another case, known as the Matter of Castillo-Perez, questions whether convictions for driving under the influence should disqualify immigrants from certain legal protections to remain in the country.

Newly appointed Attorney General William Barr, who replaced Sessions, is also following his predecessors’ path with a decision on Tuesday that revoked the right of some asylum seekers to ask for bond in front of an immigration judge, expanding indefinite detention for some migrants who must wait months or years for their cases to be heard. The American Civil Liberties Union said they will challenge the move in court.

Source: Reuters analysis of US Department of Justice data


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