Attorney general decision seeks to end asylum based on family membership

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Thousands of people fleeing violence and persecution will be denied safety in the United States under a precedent decision issued July 29 by Attorney General William Barr as the administration continues its attacks on asylum.

Writing in Matter of L-E-A-, Barr overturned a Board of Immigration Appeals precedential decision which recognized that persecution based on family membership could be a basis for asylum. It allowed people who faced persecution because of their family membership to seek asylum on that basis. Although federal courts have regularly found that family meets the requirements of a “particular social group,” Barr’s decision to further restrict asylum eligibility will make it more difficult for those fleeing violence and threats based on their family membership to find safety in the United States. CLINIC attorneys Bradley Jenkins and Victoria Neilson represented Mr. L-E-A- along with his private attorney, Mei Chen.

“In this latest assault on asylum, the administration has taken the absurd position that families are not recognized within societies as distinct groups,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of CLINIC. “With this decision, the administration not only harms asylum seekers, it also calls into question the primacy and sanctity of families as building blocks of society. This is shameful.”

The decision sends Mr. L-E-A-’s case back for review in immigration court. Jenkins said his client has other legal grounds that still form his basis for seeking asylum. “We will continue to fight for Mr. L-E-A- in his quest to live a life free from fear of harm,” he said. "We are confident that the federal courts of appeal will overturn the attorney general’s misguided and legally erroneous decision.”

Jenkins said Barr’s decision will have an immediate effect on other asylum seekers who have been targeted because of their family membership. He added that persecution on the basis of family-based membership in a particular social group has been one of the principal bases on which asylum has been granted for the past 30 years. Consequently, Barr’s decision could affect thousands of people.

For more information on Matter of L-E-A-, visit the CLINIC L-E-A- litigation page.