Today, July 29, 2019, the Attorney General of the U.S., William Barr, has single-handedly destroyed decades of precedent with his decision Matter of L-E-A, 27 I&N Dec. 581 (A.G. 2019). The decision overrules a significant portion of the underlying BIA decision, Matter of L-E-A-, 28 I&N Dec. 40 (BIA 2017). The 2017 case had simply recognized the long-standing rule that family membership was a particular social group, one of the protected grounds, for the purposes of qualifying for asylum.
The Attorney General believes that “most nuclear families are not inherently socially distinct and therefore do not qualify as ‘particular social groups.'” With this horrific decision in place, thousands of asylum applicants who fled their home countries because of danger stemming from their family relationships will have the rug pulled from under them. For example, Mr. L-E-A fled Mexico after a deadly cartel attempted to kidnap him because Mr. L-E-A’s father resisted their extortion attempts. Mr. L-E-A was punished because he was his father’s son. Now Mr. L-E-A, along with thousands of others, may lose the chance to remain safety in the U.S.
The former acting Attorney General, Matthew Whitaker, had originally referred the 2017 Matter of L-E-A- to himself for review in December of 2018. Since then, the administration has proposed and implemented more and more extreme policies that hurt immigrants. This is another effort to rewrite our immigration laws to make it more difficult for immigrants who have already suffered serious trauma and fled terrible violence. Even under these dire circumstances, we as immigration attorneys and advocates will continue to fight for the good of our clients.