The Trump administration has chose to stop granting asylum to victims of gang violence and domestic abuse - essentially blocking tens of thousands of people from seeking refuge in the United States, many of them women.
"The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes - such as domestic violence or gang violence - or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, can not itself establish an asylum claim", he continued. Three months ago, he re-opened Matter of A-B (named for the woman's initials) - which affirmed the asylum status of a woman from El Salvador who was the victim of domestic violence - to make his announcement, as the case went to the Board of Immigration Appeals.
The attorney general said during his speech his impending decision would restore "sound principles of asylum and long standing principles of immigration law".
Alleged false claims of persecution back home usually made by 80 per cent of illegal US border crossers who seek political asylum seem to have prompted a crackdown. "There are many, many Central American women and women from other parts of the world who have been able to obtain protection", Denise Gilman, a director of the immigration clinic at the University of Texas Law School in Austin, told the Times.
Sessions' decision drew immediate rebukes from dozens of immigration rights advocate groups and lawyers.
Sessions' ruling on Monday was seen by immigration experts as a way to narrow how immigration judges interpret the law, and particularly discourage Central American women who have come to the United States by the tens of thousands in recent years seeking asylum. Some said the decision could have wide-ranging impacts on immigrants fleeing gang violence and gender-based violence, including female genital cutting or honor killings.
Sessions became President Trump's attorney general after years as an immigration hardliner in the U.S. Senate.
The attorney general did not reveal the specifics of the changes to the law. "It is nearly certain that women will be killed as a result of this decision that will return them to their abusers".
He noted that, for the last five years, only 20 per cent of asylum claims have been found to be meritorious after a hearing before an immigration judge.