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UN Asylum Policies Are not U.S. Law


IRLI takes on judicial tampering with Attorney General’s asylum reform

WASHINGTON – Recently, in a case called Matter of A-B-, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions clarified that victims of private criminal activity are not eligible for asylum under U.S. law. Several illegal aliens filed a lawsuit challenging A.G. Sessions’ decision. The federal district court in the District of Columbia to hear the case then enjoined large parts of the decision, taking issue with nearly every key part of the Attorney General’s analysis. In the government’s appeal of this ruling to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) today filed a friend-of-the-court brief showing just how the district court went wrong.

IRLI shows that the district court really did not have any valid criticism of the Attorney General’s application of U.S. law. Instead, over and over again, the district court overruled the Attorney General because his conclusions differed from a United Nations handbook on refugee policy that the district court claimed should be used as an authoritative guide to U.S. law. This handbook, however, is not part of U.S. law, but is merely a document produced by an international agency, and the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that it is not binding either on U.S. courts or on the Attorney General.

To qualify for asylum under U.S. law, an alien must meet the definition of “refugee” by proving persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution by his or her government on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. U.S. refugee law does not protect people from general conditions of strife, such as crime, poverty, and other societal afflictions.

“For whatever reason, the UN promotes much looser rules for asylum than the ones that prevail in many countries, including our own,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “Our nation has never accepted the UN rules, and we have never made them part of our law by treaty or otherwise. It is thus fatal to the district court’s whole ruling that the court relied on this UN handbook to overrule the Attorney General. The American people govern themselves, and it follows that only United States law is authority in United States courts. We trust this glaring error will be corrected on appeal, and clarity and sanity returned to our overstressed asylum system.”

The case is Grace v. Barr, No. 19-1513 (DC Circuit).

For additional information, contact: Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • blonergan@irli.org


IRLI is a supporting organization of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

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