Sessions defends removing asylum protections for domestic violence victims

Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended his decision to overturn asylum protections for domestic violence and gang violence victims, saying the Trump administration will return to the “classical” and “legitimate” definition of asylum.

“We are really returning to the classical understanding of what asylum is,” Sessions told The Hill. “Asylum is not a claim that you have suffered a specific act of private violence or any other crime. It is really a systemic problem in which a group of people, based on ethnicity or race or nationality or other such factors, are oppressed in a given country.”

Sessions’ asylum decision this week reverses a push by the Obama administration to provide asylum to women with credible claims of domestic violence.

“The asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune,” Sessions wrote in his ruling. “It applies when persecution arises on account of membership in a protected group and the may not find protection except by taking refuge in another country.”

During the interview, which aired Thursday on The Hill’s Rising, Sessions also doubled down on his defense of family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border, saying that adults who enter the country illegally should not bring children. When immigrant children are separated from their families, he said, they are treated “carefully and in a nice way.”

“[Children] are essentially kept with the Department of Health and Human Services in a most decent and fair and careful program in which they have education, good food, health care and schooling.”

These statements conflict with reports of unaccompanied children being trapped at border stations that are running out of adequate sleeping areas and resources for them. A report this week from McClatchy D.C. said the Trump administration may consider erecting “tent cities” at military posts in Texas to house unaccompanied migrant children.

While Sessions defends separating families, House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Thursday that he is “not comfortable” with the tactics, adding, “We don’t want kids to be separated from their parents."

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