On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland vacated two Trump era asylum decisions which restricted the consideration of gang and domestic violence as acceptable arguments for entry.
Under current immigration law, migrants who face persecution because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion are eligible for asylum. The issues addressed by Garland involve how broadly the definition of “social group” is applied.
Garland’s actions will immediately allow immigration judges to interpret the definition of “membership in a particular social group” to include victims of domestic and gang violence, which can also apply to members of the potential asylee’s family.
The orders signed Wednesday may also impact cases previously denied under the Trump administration. This could have an impact on the current backlog of 1.3 million cases in immigration courts.
In 2020, more than 75,000 asylum cases were adjudicated. Less than 15,000 cases were found to meet the required threshold for asylum. The number does not include cases where an applicant failed to appear after initial claims made at the border.
Under the previous Trump era limitations, migrants who claimed fear of domestic and gang violence were met with unfavorable rulings during an initial credible fear hearing. The credible fear hearing, before an asylum officer, is the first benchmark in the asylum process. Migrants who fail to pass the speedy credible fear hearing are removed from the country under the expedited removal process.
The asylum process, in most cases, is lengthy and can take more than a year to adjudicate due to the backlog. The broad scope of Garland’s decisions will likely mean thousands more migrants illegally entering the United States will be released to await their day in court.
Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.