Yesterday, Attorney General Bill Barr continued building upon the worthy legacy of Jeff Sessions in the issue of immigration law. While I might have had my doubts about Sessions’s abilities on the whole–I thought he was way, way too invested in fighting the states on marijuana laws, too much in search of positive affirmation from the Justice bureaucracy to really crack the whip, and a total p***y in dealing with the Russia hoax–he was a staunch warrior on the issue of immigration. This is how he was described in The New Yorker after he resigned:
But, as the Trump Administration adopted increasingly draconian policies, it became clear that, for Sessions, orchestrating the most systematic and wide-reaching assault on immigrants in modern history was well worth enduring near-constant humiliations from the President. As the government’s top lawyer, Sessions was responsible for, among other things, cancelling daca, spurring family separations, trying to defund sanctuary cities, dismantling the asylum system, reshaping the immigration courts, and retooling multiple travel bans. To the extent that the President has styled himself as an anti-immigration crusader, it’s with a script written entirely by Sessions.
These policies have moved ahead, though, due to a concerted campaign of lawfare, with fits and starts. The most significant reform made by Sessions was to remind immigration judges that they were executive branch employees and not some ersatz form of Article III judges. Significantly, Sessions broke tradition and assumed his legal authority to rule on immigration cases of his choosing. It was through this authority that Sessions cracked down on the use of “domestic violence” as a reason for awarding asylum (this is now in federal court even though the law clearly says federal courts have no role in interpreting immigration policy).
Barr hasn’t been a shrinking violet. He issued an order, now the subject of a lawsuit, that prevented illegals applying for asylum from automatically being granted bail. Now he’s taken another shot at the whole illegal immigration complex.
Attorney General William Barr is moving to cut off asylum for people whose claims are based on being related to persecuted family members in the Trump administration’s latest effort to restrict who is eligible to seek refugee status in the U.S.
Mr. Barr overturned a decision on Monday from the Board of Immigration Appeals, which had ruled that a Mexican man could apply for asylum on the basis of his father being targeted by a Mexican cartel.
Federal law gives the attorney general the authority to overrule the immigration appeals board’s decisions. It wasn’t immediately clear how many people Monday’s ruling could affect.
Asylum eligibility usually hinges on whether people are afraid to return to their country of origin because they face persecution on the basis of factors such as race, religion, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
Membership in a family, Mr. Barr said, didn’t count as membership in a social group that might make the Mexican man eligible for asylum.
While the Board has recognized certain clans and subclans as ‘particular social groups,’ most nuclear families are not inherently socially distinct and therefore do not qualify as ‘particular social groups.
Further, as almost every alien is a member of a family of some kind, categorically recognizing families as particular social groups would render virtually every alien a member of a particular social group. There is no evidence that Congress intended the term ‘particular social group’ to cast so wide a net.
I’m sure this is headed for court. And I’m sure that a tame judge will be found to issue an injunction. When it reaches the Supreme Court, it will be upheld. The only fly in the ointment here is the fate of the Trump administration in November 2020. If President Trump wins, we’ll have locked in a solid body of immigration law to protect our borders. If we have a President Harris or Buttigieg, then all of this will have been for naught.