AG Barr ruling restricts asylum claims based on family relations


  • Attorney General William Barr on Monday issued a decision to control migrants from using their family relations when seeking asylum.
  • The attorney general explained that a group of people being targeted by criminal groups such as a drug gang does not qualify as a “particular social group” who can claim asylum in the US.
  • Only if a family, based on submitted evidence, is faced with persecution from their native countries, can be eligible for asylum.

Attorney General William Barr issued a decision on Monday to limit the ability of migrants to claim asylum using their family relations as a basis.

Barr further explained in a precedent-setting immigration court opinion that being a member of a familial family that is targeted for persecution doesn’t meet the requirements of a “particular social group” entitled to receive asylum in the US.

The attorney general wrote: “The fact that a criminal group — such as a drug cartel, gang, or guerrilla force — targets a group of people does not, standing alone, transform those people into a particular social group.”

Restricting access to asylum has been pushed by President Donald Trump which his administration believes is a magnet that lures migrants north from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

This effort was echoed by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions who in a June 2018 immigration court decision that drew criticisms from pro-migrant activists, barred asylum for victims of domestic violence and gang violence.

It is hoped that Barr’s ruling will serve as a guide to future immigration court decisions, which is within the Justice Department’s purview, a fact that Barr also stressed in the ruling on Monday.

To qualify for asylum in the US, applicants must provide proof that they faced oppression in their home countries citing race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group, as a basis.

Barr also emphasized that only when a family is “socially distinct in the eyes of its society,” then this meets the requirements for asylum.

The AG’s decision was imposed in a case involving a Mexican immigrant who said that he was targeted by drug cartels because they planned to sell drugs in his father’s store in Mexico City. Although the man’s relationship with his father qualifies as a “particular social group,” he was denied asylum due to lack of evidence that he was persecuted over the relationship, according to the Board of Immigration Appeals.

The asylum move by the DOJ is only the latest change in policy to restrict asylum.

On Friday, the Trump administration announced a deal with Guatemala to require asylum seekers passing through that nation to first seek protection there.

This agreement came following a temporary block ruled by a San Francisco-based federal judge on asylum seekers passing through other countries on the way to the southwest border.





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