By Jon Dougherty
(NationalSentinel) Attorney General William Barr has overturned a previous interpretation of a rule by a federal immigration board that now will deny most “automatic” asylum claims in keeping with the Trump administration’s efforts to curb abuses and reduce illegal immigration.
Last year, the immigration board ruled that under current law a migrant may claim asylum in the United States if their immediate family member back home was being persecuted.
But Barr, in his new order, said the board misinterpreted the rule as he tightened a measure contained in the Immigration and Nationality Act that says migrants can be given asylum if they who they have been, or will be, persecuted because of “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”
The AG wrote that the Board of Immigration Appeals had previously found that migrants in a “particular social group” under asylum laws have to share “a common immutable characteristic,” The Hill reported.
“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,” Barr’s decision reads.
Barr noted that the board’s finding “improperly” decided a 2018 case in which a migrant claimed asylum based on persecution, claiming that his father, who owned a store, was being targeted by a local drug cartel.
The migrant claimed he qualified as “membership in a particular social group,” per the immigration law.
However, Barr’s decision reads, “Consistent with these prior decisions, I conclude that an alien’s family-based group will not constitute a particular social group unless it has been shown to be socially distinct in the eyes of its society, not just those of its alleged persecutor.”
Continuing, Barr noted, “Because the record does not support the determination in this case that the immediate family of the respondent’s father constituted a particular social group, I reverse the Board’s conclusion to the contrary.”
Earlier this year, Barr also issued an order reversing a 2005 immigration board ruling which found that asylum seekers were allowed to be released on bond if they could show a credible fear of persecution or danger back in their home countries.
However, that reversal was blocked by a 9th Circuit federal court as unconstitutional because it called for holding migrants indefinitely. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last month declined to issue a stay on that lower court ruling.
Barr’s most recent order is in line with the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on asylum loopholes. President Trump and Republicans in Congress have been unable to convince Democrats, who hold a majority in the House, to work with them to revise and update asylum laws through legislation.
Another recent administration effort — a presidential executive order blocking migrants who pass through a country before reaching the U.S. border from claiming asylum, as the law states — as also been blocked by a 9th Circuit Court judge.
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