TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal has joined a coalition of 18 state Attorneys General in an effort to stop the Trump Administration from arbitrarily blocking immigrants who seek asylum in the U.S. from domestic violence or gang terrorism in their home countries.
In an amicus brief filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Attorney General Grewal and his fellow Attorneys General argue that the Administration has ignored decades of federal policy and court-decided law that protected asylum-seekers persecuted in their home countries because of their gender, ethnicity, or other key personal characteristics.
New Jersey consistently receives a high percentage of asylees relative to other states. More than 3,000 people now living in New Jersey were granted asylum between 2012 and 2016, and the state ranks behind only California, New York and Florida in terms of the percentage of all asylum grantees it receives.
“The Administration’s callous policy of closing U.S. borders to refugees who seek asylum due to legitimate fears of being persecuted, physically abused or killed in their home countries must be challenged,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Not only is the policy misguided and cruel, it ignores decades of settled law on this issue. There are asylum-seekers out there – many of them women and children -- living with danger we can’t begin to fathom. On a daily basis they confront the threat of torment and torture – and worse. By seeking asylum they are literally running for their lives, and it is our responsibility to stand up for them.”
The amicus brief was filed Friday in Grace v. Sessions (Civil Action No. 18-1853 [EGS]). Plaintiffs in the case include predominantly women and children from Central America who sought asylum in the U.S. from domestic violence and violent persecution by gangs in their home countries.
The Plaintiffs argued – as past asylum-seekers have successfully claimed -- that the governments in their home countries were unwilling or unable to protect them from such harm.
U.S. law provides that immigrants may seek asylum in America “because of a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”
In June, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a decision that changed federal policy to generally preclude asylum “claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors.” The Sessions decision also made it more difficult for asylum applicants to prove to an asylum officer that they have “credible fear” of persecution.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies filed suit to block the new policy from taking effect.
The brief filed Friday argues that the Trump Administration’s policy reversal is harmful because:
- Domestic and gang-related violence victims deserve U.S. protection: The brief notes that in countries such as the ones from which the plaintiffs fled, domestic and gang-related violence are rampant, and that fleeing such violence is a legitimate reason to seek asylum.
- Women and children predominately suffer from domestic violence: The brief notes that although both men and women can suffer from gender-based harm, such as domestic violence, it is women and their children who predominantly suffer. While state, federal and international policies and laws have recognized this harm, the new U.S. Department of Justice policy unlawfully ignores this fact.
- Limiting immigration hurts states: The brief notes that limiting immigration hurts the economy and well-being of the amici states. For example, one in six workers in the United States is an immigrant. Also, immigrants pursue entrepreneurship at higher rates than the general population.
The amicus filing is led by the District of Columbia Attorney General’s Office. In addition to New Jersey, it is joined by the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.
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