U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has vacated the rulings in Matter of A-B- (I and II) and Matter of L-E-A-—Trump-era decisions that limited asylum protection away from survivors of domestic abuse or gang violence. AG Garland’s opinions can be found here and here.
In Matter of A-B-, 27 I&N Dec. 316 (A.G. 2018)/Matter of A-B-, 28 I&N Dec. 199 (A.G. 2021), former AG Sessions declared that asylum did not extend to an El Salvadoran woman fleeing domestic violence, withdrawing asylum protections from the particular social group of “El Salvadoran women who are unable to leave their domestic relationships where they have children in common with their partners. The opinion effectively restricted asylum from survivors of domestic violence. It also casted doubt on asylum protections for what that opinion termed as “victims of criminal private activity”—which many at the time thought meant victims of gang violence—even though the issue of gang violence was beyond the subject of the claim.
In Matter of L-E-A-, 27 I&N Dec. 581 (A.G. 2019), a Mexican man sought asylum after a cartel targeted him in retaliation after his father refused to sell drugs. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) ruled that members of an immediate family may constitute membership to a particular social group under asylum law. AG Barr (also from the Trump administration) overturned that ruling, effectively stripping asylum protections away from families targeted by gangs because of activities by family members. AG Barr’s action was contrary to long-established precedent and also contradicted findings from courts of appeal, which had recognized that persecution due to one’s family membership could be the basis for asylum.
AG Garland did not overrule AG Sessions’ and AG Barr’s rulings—instead Garland vacated them, returning the issues to their pre-Trump status quo.