Attorney General Garland’s Decision on Matter of A-B- and L-E-A- Will Save Lives

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Today the #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign applauded Attorney General Merrick Garland’s decision to vacate several Trump-era rulings that gutted asylum protections. This is a move that will save lives, and it marks important progress in the administration’s efforts to rebuild our asylum system. The rulings reversed today created enormous obstacles to protection for people escaping gender-based violence, gang brutality, and other human rights violations. The result was a sharp downturn in asylum approval rates, with many people being ordered deported to grave violence. Attorney-General Garland’s decisions affirm that judges cannot prejudge cases involving gender- and gang-related violence, and must provide each asylum seeker a fair opportunity to present their claims. Advocates including two of the attorneys representing the client in the cases, current asylum seekers, and experts from member organizations responded:

“This was the right move, and it will save lives. We are thrilled for our client and for the many individuals fleeing persecution who will now have a fair chance to seek refuge in the United States,” said Karen Musalo, director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) and one of the attorneys representing the asylum seeker in Matter of A-B-. “Now it’s time to build on this progress. We encourage Attorney General Garland to swiftly reverse the 2020 ruling in Matter of A-C-A-A-, which imposed additional barriers to asylum. And as the administration develops regulations on how these cases should be decided in the future, we urge them to bring our asylum system into alignment with international human rights standards, which recognize the right of people escaping gender-based violence and other persecution to seek asylum.”

“Catholic social teaching, international human rights law, and common sense all tell us that the family is the natural and fundamental unit of society,” said Bradley Jenkins, federal litigation attorney at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) and one of the lawyers representing the asylum seeker in Matter of L-E-A-. “Families facing persecution qualify for asylum under any reasonable interpretation of the law, and it is encouraging to see Attorney General Garland take this step toward restoring the asylum system. We hope that the rulemaking process will result in further progress toward a fair and humane asylum policy.”

“I am elated that Attorney General Merrick Garland has vacated multiple Trump-era decisions that severely limited access to asylum for victims of domestic and gang violence and those persecuted due to their family ties,” said Katharina Obser, acting director of Women Refugee Commission’s (WRC) Migrant Rights and Justice program. “There is no question that these decisions will save lives. While much more needs to be done to lift restrictions on and build a fair asylum process, this critical decision helps the US move toward an asylum system that welcomes with dignity and lives up to its obligations under the Refugee Convention and its own domestic laws. We celebrate alongside the respondents – including Ms. A.B. and all women and others whose asylum claims are affected by this decision.”

“I am thrilled to hear about these critical changes to the law – I know it is going to change my life, and the life of so many women who, like me, are survivors of domestic abuse,” said Maribel, an asylum seeker and member of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP). “I can rest more easily now knowing that my children and I have a chance to get justice and be safe from deportation back to my abuser.”

“To be serious about restoring access to asylum requires redressing harms caused by the previous administration,” said Meredith Owen, Director of Policy and Advocacy for Church World Service. “Vacating Matter of A-B- and L-E-A- will have a profound impact on victims of domestic and gang violence and those persecuted due to family ties, who have endured horrific persecution and faced further needless suffering as a result of these immoral rulings. Matter of A-B- and L-E-A- led to asylum seekers being wrongly denied protection and ordered deported to face the dangers they had fled. U.S. asylum policy should always recognize that everyone deserves a safe place to call home and the inherent dignity of all people. CWS celebrates AG Garland’s decision and urges the administration to swiftly vacate Matter of A-C-A-A-.”

“I am very happy about this victory for Ms. A.B.,” said “Leticia,” an asylum seeker and member leader with Mujeres Unidas y Activas. “This decision gives hope to thousands of people who have been fleeing domestic violence and gives us the chance of obtaining asylum. If I win my case, I will be happy and I will feel free. I feel like God is giving me another chance.”

“We welcome Attorney General Garland’s move to vacate these Trump anti-asylum decisions as another step towards restoring access to the U.S. asylum system. Survivors of domestic and gang violence will now, again, be able to access well-deserved protections. This is crucial because targeted violence continues to force families, children, and adults to flee the northern countries of Central America. We urge the Biden Administration to move forward with upholding a truly humane asylum system that welcomes those fleeing persecution with dignity,” states Daniella Burgi-Palomino, Co-director of the Latin America Working Group (LAWG).

“The Florence Project is thrilled by the news that Attorney General Garland has vacated these two decisions by the prior administration, which caused untold harm to so many of the people we serve and to so many suffering persecution throughout the world,” said Laura St. John, Legal Director at the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. “This will have an immediate, positive impact for innumerable people seeking safety in the United States and is a critical step toward restoring access to asylum.”

“Today’s decisions move us closer to a system that protects the right to asylum for the brave people who dare to move across the face of the earth,” said Ariel Prado, Defend Asylum Program Director with Innovation Law Lab. “These decisions were designed by a white-supremacist administration deliberately to deny that right.”

“Rescinding these cruel decisions is the first critical step to returning to our humanitarian obligations. We urge the Biden administration to adopt rules that reflect the purpose of our asylum laws—to protect refugees fleeing persecution,” said Kate Melloy Goettel, Legal Director of Litigation at the American Immigration Council. “Amid four years of harmful, discriminatory, and racist asylum policies, Matter of A-B- and L-E-A- were among the most egregious policies in terms of their harmful impact. The Trump administration’s attempt to curtail asylum claims based on gender-based violence, gang violence, and family membership reflected the administration’s focus on demonizing Central American asylum seekers and shutting our nation’s doors to those in need of protection.” 

“This is another encouraging sign that the Biden administration is serious about turning the page on the cruelty and chaos of the Trump years,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice. “The former President and his most zealous anti-immigrant hardliners Jeff Sessions and Stephen Miller, worked relentlessly to gut our nation’s asylum system. Their goal was to make it nearly impossible for those fleeing for their lives to win protection. This change will restore a measure of fairness to the asylum rules and help create a well-managed border where those fleeing violence and persecution have a full and fair opportunity to apply for protection. After all, an asylum decision can be a matter of life and death. Moreover, standing up a fair and humane asylum process at our southern border is an essential component of a regional strategy aimed at creating safe, humane, and orderly migration channels while, over time, addressing root causes so that migration becomes a matter of choice rather than necessity. This is a huge step forward in making that strategy come to life.”

“As a former refugee woman and a mother, I am thrilled to hear this news. It’s time for the U.S. to unite families and welcome our brothers and sisters who are seeking safety and freedom,” said Basma Alawee, Campaign Manager of We Are All America. 

“The Attorney General’s actions are terrific news and a huge relief for refugees at risk of return to persecution due to the Trump administration’s efforts to unilaterally rewrite U.S. asylum law.  The move is an important step towards protecting the women, children, and families who have been endangered by the rulings of Trump administration Attorney Generals.  We look forward to the Biden administration taking additional steps to end other Trump-era policies that violate U.S. refugee law and treaties.” stated Eleanor Acer, director of Human Rights First’s Refugee Protection program.

“Vacating Matter A-B- and Matter of L-E-A- is a welcomed shift in U.S. asylum law that will steer this country back in the direction of moral justice. At ImmDef alone, this decision has an immediate impact on hundreds of cases where survivors of persecution are fighting at the trial and appellate level. As we celebrate this decision, we can’t forget all those who were deported back into danger under the previous administration’s atrocious decision. We applaud this significant first step toward restoring asylum law in the U.S., and hope this is the beginning of progress towards a future where we welcome all with dignity.”  – Director of Litigation and Advocacy, Munmeeth Soni, Immigrant Defenders Law Center

“Today’s action by Attorney General Garland is an important first step toward re-establishing that asylum seekers are entitled to fair, case-by-case evaluation of their claims,” said Peter Isbister, Senior Lead Attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project. “We are encouraged by the Attorney General’s commitment to issue long-overdue regulations defining ‘particular social group’ to protect future asylum seekers from the political meddling of Attorneys General who are ideologically opposed to asylum, which happened repeatedly under the Trump Administration. We also urge him to ensure that the forthcoming regulations reflect respect for human dignity and honor our commitments under international law.  We look forward to further action by Attorney General Garland to undo the enormous damage wrought by the Trump administration on our immigration system.”


Olga Byrne, the Director of Immigration for the International Rescue Committee said: “We applaud today’s decisions by the Attorney General to vacate harmful decisions issued by the previous administration that restricted eligibility for asylum and left thousands without protection. This is a vital step in the right direction toward building a fair and humane asylum system. We look forward to the Administration’s rule-making process which we hope will further clarify longstanding precedent that recognizes the particular circumstances of survivors of gender-based violence, the LGBTQ community, and others who have been relentlessly targeted by private actors.”

“We applaud this momentous decision to make asylum protection more available for survivors of gender-based violence,” said Richard Caldarone, Tahirih Litigation Counsel. “From the beginning, we challenged the decision in Matter of A-B- because it foreclosed access to safety in many cases, excluding thousands of women, girls, and individuals fleeing rape, sexual assault, and other heinous forms of abuse. Now, survivors of gender-based violence will once again have greater access to the justice they deserve.”

Previously, more than 350 groups, including many members of the campaign, joined in a letter urging the Attorney General Garland to vacate Matter of A-B-, Matter of L-E-A-, and Matter of A-C-A-A- on May 7, 2021.