New Guidance Attempts to Undermine Access to Refugee Protection

Thursday, July 12, 2018


Yesterday U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a policy memorandum providing guidance to asylum officers in light of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent ruling in the asylum case known as Matter of A-B-. The new memorandum reiterates the flawed and erroneous interpretation of asylum law articulated in the A-B- decision. It employs similarly sweeping language directing asylum officers to prejudge claims from women, children, and families fleeing domestic violence and gang-related persecution and attempts to raise the bar for screenings and decisions on asylum.  

Under decades of established case law, individuals fleeing gender-based violence and violence by gangs can still be found deserving of protection and should be provided a full and meaningful day in court. We are deeply concerned, however, that the damaging language of the A-B- decision, reinforced by the new USCIS guidance, will lead many officers to deny protection to asylum seekers with meritorious claims. At the credible fear screening stage, this could result in asylum seekers being immediately rejected at the border and ordered deported to life-threatening violence, without having any opportunity to obtain legal representation and present their claims before an immigration judge.

“The new USCIS memorandum marks yet another shameful attempt by the Trump Administration to shut down access to the U.S. asylum system, in blatant violation of our domestic and international legal obligations to refugees,” said CGRS Co-Legal Director Blaine Bookey.