Sessions announces stricter asylum rules for victims of domestic battery, gang violence

"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, can not itself establish an asylum claim", the ruling added.

In a deciding opinion on a case of an unidentified woman from El Salvador who was raped and beaten by her husband for years, Sessions said that asylum seekers must prove that they suffer persecution arising from their membership in a distinct group.

The ruling effectively reverses precedent put in place during the administration of US President Barack Obama that allowed more women to cite domestic violence and fears of gang violence as part of their asylum application.

It was not immediately clear how many cases the decision could affect. That last category often included domestic violence victims and victims of gang violence.

"The decision itself really is looking to dial us back to the dark ages, before we really recognized women's rights as human rights", said Blaine Bookey, a lawyer at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. She attempted to escape him by moving to another Salvadoran town, obtaining restraining orders, and divorcing him, but the threats and violence continued, according to her court filings. ´"Unlike the federal judiciary system, the United States immigration courts fall under the Justice Department´s jurisdiction, and the attorney general can intervene". S. and possibly never show up for an immigration hearing, " Sessions said.

Judges will be required to take Sessions ruling into account when decided on asylum cases.

"For reasons understood only by himself, the Attorney General today erased an important legal development that was universally agreed to be correct", they wrote.

Critics called Monday's ruling the latest effort by the Trump administration to erode asylum protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants, particularly those fleeing rampant gang violence and high homicide rates in Central America.

Fifteen former immigration judges signed a letter calling Mr Sessions' decision "an affront to the rule of law".

And immigration courts overall face a backlog of about 700,000 cases of all types.

The Trump administration has accused migrants of exploiting the asylum system to gain entry to the United States, aware that the immigration courts are so backlogged that their cases could take years to complete.

An administration official said last month that the backlog of asylum cases topped 300,000, almost half the total backlog.

Vanessa Coleman