On June 16, 2021 Attorney General Merrick Garland vacated Trump-era Attorney General rulings that for all intents and purposes removed asylum protections for people escaping gender-based violence, gang brutality, and persecution against families. These Trump-era rulings were legally unfounded and forced immigration judges to sidestep fair determinations in order to prejudge cases along the Trump administration’s abhorrent anti-immigrant policies. Many asylum seekers have seen their asylum applications unfoundedly denied because of these decisions.
Garland’s decisions to vacate these terrible Trump-era decisions means that asylum seekers can again seek protection from persecution when a government is unable or unwilling to protect them from violence and persecution by nongovernmental actors, not least gangs and family members.
The decisions also signal the Biden administration’s intention to realign American asylum law with international human rights law. In his decisions today Garland said: “We urge the agencies … to bring our asylum system into alignment with international human rights standards and the guidance of the UN Refugee Agency, which recognize the right of people escaping gender-based violence and other persecution to seek asylum, and which was Congress’ intent in enacting our asylum laws.”