The widely expected move overruled a Board of Immigration Appeals decision in 2016 that gave asylum status to a woman from El Salvador who fled her husband.
"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", the ruling added.
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 USA by the tens of thousands in recent years seeking asylum. She said she was escaping from an ex-husband who had physically and emotionally abused her for years, even after she moved elsewhere in El Salvador. She anticipates other cases in the pipeline may reach the appeals court first.
"While I do not decide that violence inflicted by non-governmental actors may never serve as the basis for an asylum or withholding application based on membership in a particular social group, in practice such claims are unlikely to satisfy the statutory grounds for proving group persecution that the government is unable or unwilling to address", he said. Gilman expects the decision will ultimately be reversed, but until then, she believes it makes a clear statement that the USA does not want asylum seekers to come into the country, while putting vulnerable people in potentially deadly situations.
"The vast majority of the current asylum claims are not valid, " Sessions told an audience that included 18 immigration judges recently assigned to detention centres near the U.S.
Fifteen former immigration judges signed a letter calling Sessions' decision "an affront to the rule of law".
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Domestic violence is a "particularly hard crime to prevent and prosecute, even in the United States", Mr Sessions wrote, adding that its prevalence in El Salvador does not mean that its government was unwilling or unable to protect victims any less so than the United States.
The attorney general did not reveal the specifics of the changes to the law.
They said Sessions' decision overturns decades of legal efforts to protect abused women.
To seek asylum in the United States, one needs to qualify as a refugee, Congress decided in 1980. "The Trump immigration approach is increasingly defined by immorality and depravity".
He remanded the case of A-B- back to Judge Stuart Couch in Charlotte, North Carolina, for further proceedings.