A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed Justice Department policies that made it harder for immigrants to claim asylum because of domestic violence or gang violence, finding the policies violated existing law.
Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court in Washington ruled the harsher Justice Department policies ordered by former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions were “arbitrary, capricious and in violation of the immigration laws.”
Because “it is the will of Congress — not the whims of the Executive—that determines the standard for expedited removal, the Court finds that those policies are unlawful,” Sullivan wrote in his 107-page decision.
He permanently blocked the government “from continuing to apply those policies and from removing plaintiffs who are currently in the United States without first providing credible fear determinations consistent with the immigration laws,” and ordered the feds “to return to the United States the plaintiffs who were unlawfully deported and to provide them with new credible fear determinations consistent with the immigration laws.”
The ruling was hailed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which had challenged DOJ’s “expedited removal” policies in court.
“This ruling is a defeat for the Trump administration’s all-out assault on the rights of asylum seekers. The government’s attempt to obliterate asylum protections is unlawful and inconsistent with our country’s longstanding commitment to provide protection to immigrants fleeing for their lives,” said Jennifer Chang Newell, managing attorney of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued the case.
The policies were announced by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessionswho said in June that fear of domestic abuse or gang violence is not an acceptable basis for granting asylum.
“The asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune,” Sessions wrote. “The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes — such as domestic violence or gang violence — or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime cannot itself establish an asylum claim.”
A rep for DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the asylum ruling.
The ACLU filed suit on behalf of a dozen asylum seekers, all of whom had experienced horrors in the homelands, and all of whom were deemed “credible” by asylum officers, but were still slated for “expedited removal” because of the Sessions policy.
Sullivan’s ruling allows them to continue to seek asylum in the U.S.
In the same case in August, an angry Sullivan rapped the Justice Department for having deported a mother and daughter, who were plaintiffs, back to El Salvador. The mother had fled “horrific” sexual abuse at the hands of her husband, and death threats from a local gang. Sullivan ordered the feds to turn her plane back around, and not to deport any other plaintiffs while the case was pending.
The decision is part of an eventful week for the federal judge. He presided over a sentencing hearing for former national security adviser Michael Flynn, where he blasted the ex-military man for lying to federal investigators. He eventually delayed the sentencing.