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Gillian Branstetter, Media Relations Manager
June 12, 2018

Jeff Sessions Implements Broad Policy Against Asylum Seekers Fleeing Violence

In an escalation of the Trump administration’s ongoing attacks against migrants and refugees, Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week announced the federal government will no longer grant asylum status to those fleeing domestic or gang violence.

Many transgender women from Latin America arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum from criminal gangs who threaten them with extortion, physical violence, and sexual violence. Unfortunately, most are then held in ICE detention centers where they are 97 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other detainees. 

The attorney general ruling upends long-standing precedents recognizing that targets of domestic violence and gang violence often must flee their country, and the United States can and must provide safety to them.

The change could push thousands of asylum-seekers back to countries where their lives are in danger, especially women, children, and LGBTQ people.

Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy for the National Center for Transgender Equality, gave the following response to the decision by the Attorney General:

“This administration seems more than happy to use criminal violence as a political talking point but won’t lift a finger to save the people threatened by those very groups. The decision by the attorney general to deny asylum to  those fleeing domestic and gang violence could be a death sentence for untold numbers of LGBTQ migrants.

Transgender women face routine threats and acts of violence in many countries around the world. Roxsana Hernandez, a transgender woman from Honduras, escaped her home country after being raped by gang members only to die in ICE custody. Alejandra, a transgender woman from El Salvador currently in an ICE prison, similarly faced sexual violence and threats from criminal gangs and even members of the nation’s military. 

Asylum seekers like Roxsana and Alejandra are people with little to no resources traveling through multiple hostile countries simply to find a place where they can exist without fear. Facing hunger, poverty, sexual violence, losing their families and leaving their communities, they often come to the U.S. with little idea of what will happen after surrendering themselves at the border.

Yet they come seeking the assurance of not just a better tomorrow, but any tomorrow. We must not become a nation that neglects our obligation to protect human rights and dignity of others, regardless of what sent them from their homes or how they’ve arrived at our borders.”
 

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