The Attorney General’s Opinion in the Matter of A-B

Attorney General Jeff Sessions today signed his order and opinion in the Matter of A-B. Attribute the following statement to a Justice Department spokesman:

“Our nation’s immigration laws provide for asylum to be granted to individuals who have been persecuted, or who have a well-founded fear of persecution, on account of their membership in a ‘particular social group,’ but most victims of personal crimes do not fit this definition—no matter how vile and reprehensible the crime perpetrated against them. The Department of Justice remains committed to reducing violence against women and enforcing laws against domestic violence, both in the United States and around the world.”
Key Excerpts:

“In reaching these conclusions, I do not minimize the vile abuse that the respondent reported she suffered at the hands of her ex-husband or the harrowing experiences of many other victims of domestic violence around the world. I understand that many victims of domestic violence may seek to flee from their home countries to extricate themselves from a dire situation or to give themselves the opportunity for a better life. But the ‘asylum statute is not a general hardship statute.’ Velasquez, 866 F.3d at 199 (Wilkinson, J., concurring). As Judge Wilkinson correctly recognized, the Board’s recent treatment of the term ‘particular social group’ is ‘at risk of lacking rigor.’ Id. at 198. Nothing in the text of the INA supports the suggestion that Congress intended ‘membership in a particular social group’ to be ‘some omnibus catch-all” for solving every “heart-rending situation.’ Id.”

“…an applicant seeking to establish persecution on account of membership in a “particular social group” must satisfy two requirements. First, the applicant must demonstrate membership in a group, which is composed of members who share a common immutable characteristic, is defined with particularity, and is socially distinct within the society in question. And second, the applicant’s membership in that group must be a central reason for her persecution.”
“When, as here, the alleged persecutor is someone unaffiliated with the government, the applicant must show that flight from her country is necessary because her home government is unwilling or unable to protect her.”

“Such applicants must establish membership in a particular and socially distinct group that exists independently of the alleged underlying harm, demonstrate that their persecutors harmed them on account of their membership in that group rather than for personal reasons, and establish that the government protection from such harm in their home country is so lacking that their persecutors’ actions can be attributed to the government.”

“Where the persecutor is not part of the government, the immigration judge must consider both the reason for the harm inflicted on the asylum applicant and the government’s role in sponsoring or enabling such actions. An alien may suffer threats and violence in a foreign country for any number of reasons relating to her social, economic, family, or other personal circumstances. Yet the asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune.”

Re: the Matter of R-A-: “The Board held that the mere existence of shared circumstances would not turn those possessing such characteristics into a particular social group.”

“A particular social group must not be ‘amorphous, overbroad, diffuse, or subjective,’ and ‘not every ‘immutable characteristic’ is sufficiently precise to define a particular social group.’ M-E-V-G-, 26 I&N Dec. at 239.”

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