Request to Vacate Matter of A-B-, A-C-A-A-, L-E-A-

The Honorable Merrick B. Garland

Attorney General of the United States

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530-0001


CC:  Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

RE:   Request for Immediate Vacatur of: 

  • Matter of A-B-, 28 I. & N. Dec. 199 (A.G. 2021); Matter of A-B-, 27 I. & N. Dec. 316 (A.G. 2018)

  • Matter of L-E-A-, 27 I. & N. Dec. 581 (A.G. 2019); Matter of L-E-A-, 27 I. & N. Dec. 40 (B.I.A. 2017)

  • Matter of A-C-A-A-, 28 I. & N. Dec. 84 (A.G. 2020)

Dear Attorney General Garland,

As you know, President Biden issued an Executive Order on February 2, 2021 requiring the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to evaluate whether the United States (U.S.) protects survivors of domestic and gang violence in accordance with international law, and to promulgate regulations regarding the “particular social group” (PSG) ground of asylum. Per the Order, and consistent with the April 13 request from respondents’ counsel, the 357 undersigned humanitarian and human rights organizations, law school clinics, and professors respectfully urge you to promptly vacate the decisions in the above-captioned cases while the agencies engage in their longer-term review and rulemaking. Immediate action is needed because decision-makers in asylum proceedings–including in the cases of our clients–continue to use these cases to justify categorical foreclosure of relief for survivors of such violence, unjustly putting survivors’ lives and safety at grave risk. These precedents flagrantly violate U.S. obligations under the United Nations (UN) Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (Convention), and our asylum laws designed to implement them. We look forward to engagement with the administration on putting in place rules that reflect Congressional intent and international norms to ensure those fleeing persecution are not unjustly denied protection under U.S. law.  Action is also needed now on these decisions, however, in order to save lives.

Asylum is meant to provide refuge to individuals who lack protection from targeted harm they face at home. Women like the respondents in Matter of A-B- and Matter of A-C-A-A- endure horrific persecution and are at high risk of femicide if unable to flee.  Perpetrators are emboldened by governments that tolerate and even encourage violence against women, leaving them in dire need of international protection. The respondent in Matter of A-B- survived 15 years of brutal physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and was properly found eligible for asylum when her case was first heard.  In overturning the Board of Immigration Appeals’ (BIA) prior decision, former AG Sessions arbitrarily declared that survivors of domestic violence would no longer qualify for asylum as a general matter.[1] He made similar sweeping comments about cases involving gang violence, even though the A-B- case did not raise such a claim.

Former Acting AG Rosen then doubled down on Sessions’ decision[2], again appearing to raise the bar for proving failure of state protection in cases – often those involving domestic and gang violence – where the persecutor is a non-state actor. He noted that failures of protection in particular cases or generally high levels of crime do not amount to a breach[3]. He further concluded that failure to protect is when “the government in the home country has fallen so far short of adequate protection as to have breached its basic duty to protect its citizens, or else to have actively harmed them or condoned such harm. . . . [4]“  In contravention of settled law, this standard seems to preclude claims where a government makes a minimal gesture to prevent persecution by non-state actors, but effectively turns a blind eye toward it. Many courts continue to erroneously reject asylum claims on this basis. 

In Matter of A-C-A-A-, former AG Barr further cast gender-based persecution as a “personal” dispute. He implied that adjudicators should be skeptical of affording protection for survivors simply because such violence is so pervasive.[5]  This sweeping characterization presents a backwards view that denies that women’s rights are human rights.  This characterization also appeared to heighten the standard for establishing that persecution is inflicted on account of membership in a particular social group when the group potentially encompasses large numbers of people, such as ‘women’ in a certain country.  Both Matter of A-B- and A-C-A-A- stand in stark opposition to the UN’s longstanding, unequivocal recognition of gender-based persecution as a systemic human rights abuse intentionally inflicted upon a protected group that warrants redress under the Convention. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “…it is widely accepted that [gender] can influence, or dictate, the type of persecution or harm suffered and the reasons for this treatment. The refugee definition, properly interpreted, therefore covers gender-related claims.” Moreover, this decision ignores the fact that there are many hurdles asylum seekers must clear before they are granted protection, and each case must be viewed on its own merit. 

Asylum seekers who otherwise would qualify for refugee protection are at imminent risk of deportation as a result of these decisions. The case of Anna* from Guatemala* is illustrative. She was held captive by a man who relentlessly abused and humiliated her for 11 years with impunity, referring to her as his “dog.” He whistled at her instead of calling her by name, told her she was registered to him like a car, controlled what she wore, and beat her for trying to go to church. He tied her child up in front of her and tried to light him on fire, threatening to kill her because she reported him to the police.  Anna* finally managed to escape, after her abuser sharpened his machete in front of her and threatened to decapitate her. Anna’s* case was heard immediately after Matter of A-B- was decided and she was denied relief as a direct result. Her case is currently on appeal. 

Matter of L-E-A-, meanwhile, broadly foreclosed protection for many families targeted by gangs and other actors for violence because of their family membership.[6] In this case, a Mexican drug cartel retaliated against a son because his father would not sell drugs for the cartel. Although former AG Barr acknowledged that “a number of courts of appeals have issued opinions that recognize a family-based social group as a ‘PSG,’” he inexplicably held that “average” families are generally not recognizable as a group in society. In fact, from 1993 through 2019, all circuits that considered the issue have published decisions specifically finding that a family unit can constitute a PSG. In addition, the BIA had erroneously concluded in Matter of L-E-A- that because the persecutor had one non-protected motive to harm the applicant (seeking access to the applicant’s store), he failed to prove that his family membership was one central reason for the harm even though he would not have been threatened but for his relationship to his father. Barr adopted this nexus determination. Together, these decisions have caused denials of protection that would have previously been granted, as well as unnecessary litigation and protracted appeals.

As explained above, the U.S.’s obligations under international law include providing safe haven to survivors of brutal human rights abuses such as domestic and gang violence. Yet we remain in violation of the Convention and Protocol as long as Matter of A-B- (I&II), Matter of A-C-A-A-, and Matter of L-E-A– (I&II) remain in effect. To restore compliance, and prevent the  needless suffering of vulnerable asylum seekers, it is critical that the Department of Justice vacate these erroneous and unjust decisions. Previous AGs have taken similar actions in the past, while agencies review and develop new guidance, and we respectfully urge you to do the same immediately.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. Should you have any questions, please contact Irena Sullivan at



Adelante Alabama Worker Center

ADL (the Anti-Defamation League)

Adriel Daniel Orozco, New Mexico Immigrant Law Center**

Advocating Opportunity

African Services Committee


Albizu Law Firm

Aldea – The People’s Justice Center

Alexandra Manrique Alfonso

Alianza Americas

Allegra Love

Ambrosio Immigration Practice

American Gateways

American Immigration Council

American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Colorado

Americans for Immigrant Justice


Anju Gupta, Professor of Law & Director, Immigrant Rights Clinic, Rutgers Law School**

Annique Boomsma, Western Mass Jewish Activists for Immigration Justice**

Ann Terese Slusher

Ann-Louise Haak, Wellington Avenue UCC, Chicago, IL**

Anu Joshi, Vice President of Policy, New York Immigration Coalition

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta

Asian Law Caucus

Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence


Association of Africans Living in Vermont

Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP)


Aust Schmiechen, PA

Becker & Lee LLP

Benjamin Casper Sanchez, James H. Binger Center for New Americans, University of Minnesota Law School**

Beth Lyon, Clinical Professor of Law, Cornell Law School**

Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)

Blumenau Law, PLLC

Boston College Law School Civil Rights Clinic

Brooklyn Defender Services


Calderon & Gonzalez, PC

California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (CCIJ)

California Partnership to End Domestic Violence

Canal Alliance


CarmanFullerton, PLLC

Caroline Sennett

Carolyn P Blum, Clinical Professor of Law, Emerita, Berkeley Law, University of California**

Casa Cornelia Law Center

Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities

Casa del Migrante en Tijuana

Casey Miller

Catherine A. Bernard, Mayer Brown LLP**

Catholic Charities, NY, Immigrant and Refugee Services

Catholic Migration Services, Inc.

Center for Constitutional Rights

Center for Safety & Change

Center for Victims of Torture

Central American Resource Center – CARECEN- of California

Central West Justice Center

Centro Del Inmigrante

Centro Legal de la Raza

Charis Zimmick

Charla Nich

Charlotte Weiss

Christopher M Kozoll

Claire R. Thomas, New York Law School**

Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)

Community HeLP Clinic, University of Georgia School of Law

Community Immigration Law Center

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto

Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim

Connecticut Shoreline Indivisible

Cornell 1L Immigration Law & Advocacy Clinic

Cornell Law School Asylum & Convention Against Torture Appellate Clinic

Council on American-Islamic Relations, California

CRLA Foundation

Crystal Cortez

Csepes Law Offices

Dana Katz, Esq.

Debra Rodman Consulting

Deena R. Hurwitz

Denise Gilman, Co-Director, Immigration Clinic, University of Texas School of Law**

Desert Support for Asylums Seekers

Diego Castilleja

Dina Friedman

Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc.

Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel

Dolores Street Community Services

Dr. Kimberly Gauderman

Dreamer Fund

East Bay Sanctuary Covenant

Elaine Fordyce, Law Office of Shara Svendsen**

Elevation Law LLC

Elizabeth Quay Hutchinson, University of New Mexico**

Ellen Kaufmann

Elora Mukherjee, Jerome L. Greene Clinical Professor of Law & Director, Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, Columbia Law School**

Elsaban Law Firm

Emily Jones

Equal Access Legal Services

Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, CCLA Inc.

Family Violence Appellate Project

First Focus on Children

Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project

Fordham University School of Law

Francesca Wander

Frances Kreimer, Villanova University, Clinic for Asylum, Refugee and Emigrant Services**

Freedom Network USA

Fulenchek Law

Futures Without Violence

Gabriela Moraga, University of San Francisco School of Law**

Gabrielle Schneck, Attorney at Law

Gail Dreyfuss

Geoffrey Heeren, Associate Professor & Director of the Immigration Litigation & Appellate Clinic, University of Idaho College of Law**

Georgetown University Law Center

Haitian Bridge Alliance

Harmony Mancino

Harold Dee

Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program


Hiroko Kusada, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law**

H. Jessica Kim

Hofstra Law School Asylum Clinic

Hofstra Law School Deportation Defense Clinic

Hofstra Youth Advocacy Clinic

Human Rights First

Human Rights Initiative of North Texas

Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Immigrant ARC

Immigrant Defenders Law Center

Immigrant Justice Corps

Immigrant Justice Task Force, Wellington Ave UCC

Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP)

Immigrant Legal Center

Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC)

Immigrant Legal Services of the Central Coast Inc.

Immigrants Rights

Immigration Center for Women and Children

Immigration Clinic, University of Nebraska College of Law

Immigration Equality

Immigration Institute of the Bay

Immigration Law Clinic, Touro Law Center

Immigration Resource Center of San Gabriel Valley

Indivisible Northampton, Massachusetts

Innovation Law Lab

Institute for Women in Migration (IMUMI)

Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS)

Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants

International League of Advocates

International Refugee Assistance Project

International Rescue Committee

Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice

ISLA: Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy

Jacob McCoy

Janely Mendoza

Jean Stockdale

Jeng-Ya Chen

Jennie Feldman

Jennifer Frohman, Frohman Law Office LLC**

Jesus Martinez

Jewish Activists for Immigration Justice of Western MA

Jewish Women International

Jezic & Moyse LLC

Joan Friedland

Joel Coxander, Esq.

John Charles Bell, Law Office of John Charles Bell, Retired Assistant United States Attorney NDAL**

Jonathan Moore, Washington Defender Association**

Judith Seeds Miller

Just Neighbors

Justice and Diversity Center of the Bar Association of San Francisco


Kaci Bishop, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Immigration Clinic, University of North Carolina School of Law**

Karen Levine

Law Offices of Karin Tolgu

Kathleen M. Weber

Katie H. Meyer, Washington University Immigration Law Clinic**

Keep Tucson Together

Kentucky Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Kentucky Refugee Ministries

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)

Kim D. Pedersen, Esq.

Kimberly Fasking, Law Office of John Charles Bell**

L&L Immigration Law, PLLC

La Raza Centro Legal

La Raza Centro Legal San Francisco

Laredo Immigrant Alliance

Latin America Working Group (LAWG)

Lauren Gilbert, St. Thomas University College of Law**

Law Foundation of Silicon Valley

Law Office of Benjamin Cornell

Law Office of Helen Lawrence

Law Office of Karina Velásquez

Law Office of Laurence Borten

Law Office of Mario Varela, PLLC

Law Office of Rachel Benedict

Law Offices of Clarissa M. Kalil

Law Offices of David A. Borts

Law Offices of Giovanna Harswick PLLC

Law Offices of Michael Boyle

Law offices of Neda Zaman

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area

Layne Faulkner

Legal Aid Justice Center

Legal Services for Children

Legal Services NYC

Leslie Garcia

Linda Dakin-Grimm, Milbank LLP**

Lindsay M. Harris, Assoc. Prof. & Director, Immigration & Human Rights Clinic, UDC Law**

Lydia Sinkus

Lopez & Freshwater PLLC

Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice

Lutheran Social Services of New York

Lynn Marcus, Community Immigration Law Placement Clinic, University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law**

Make the Road New Jersey

Make the Road New York

Maria Baldini-Potermin & Associates, PC

Marisol Alarcon

Margaret Taylor, Professor of Law, Wake Forest University School of Law**

Maritza Colon Rivera, Colon and Gonzalez, LLC**

Maryann Hrichak, TechWomen**

Mary Foden, De Castro Foden**

McGeorge Law School

Medina Law, PLLC

Melanie Nathan, African Human Rights Coalition (AHRC)**

Menter Immigration Law PLLC

M. Gabriela Torres, Professor of Anthropology, Wheaton College, MA**

Michaelene Loughlin, Emmaus Community of Christian Hope**

Michael Smith

Michigan Immigrant Rights Center

Migrant and Immigrant Community Action Project

Migrant Center for Human Rights

Minikon Law, LLC – Immigration Attorneys

M Isabel Medina, Ferris Distinguished Professor of Law, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law**

Mississippi Center for Justice

Mobilization for Justice, Inc.

Monica Devens

Mujeres Unidas y Activas

Nancy K. D. Lemon, Berkeley School of Law, UC Berkeley**

Natalia Montserrat Osorio

National Alliance to End Sexual Violence

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Council of Jewish Women

National Immigrant Justice Center

National Immigration Law Center

National Immigration Project

National Lawyers Guild – San Francisco Bay Area

National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Organization for Women

National Partnership for New Americans

Neighbors Link – Community Law Practice

Nettie Parker, Atty at Law

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

New York Justice for Our Neighbors, Inc.

New York Legal Assistance Group

New York University School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic

New York- Justice For Our Neighbors

NorCal Resist

North Carolina Justice Center

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project

Open Immigration Legal Services

Opening Doors, Inc.

Oren Root

Oxfam America

Pars Equality Center

Pelton and Balducci

Pete Weiss, Pangea Legal Services**

Physicians for Human Rights

Pilar Ferguson, Human Rights Initiative of North Texas**

Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York

Professor Jaya Ramji-Nogales

Professor Sarah Rogerson, Albany Law School **

Professor Vanessa Merton, Immigration Justice Clinic, Elizabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University**

Project Blueprint

Project Ishmael

Project Lifeline

Public Counsel

Rabbi Benjamin Kelsen


Refugees International

Roberts Immigration Law Office, Ltd.

Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network

Ryan Krause

Safe Horizon

Safe Passage Project

Samavati & Samavati Law Firm

Sam Myers

San Joaquin College of Law – New American Legal Clinic

Sanctuary for Families

Sandra Gibbs Law, Inc.

Save the Children

Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network (SIREN)

Shara Svendsen, Law Office of Shara Svendsen, PLLC**

Sheri Murray, Esq.

Social Justice Collaborative

Sosa Law

Southwest Asylum & Migration Institute (“SAMI”)

SPLC Action Fund

Stacy Caplow, Brooklyn Law School**

Stacy Kowalski, Esq.

Stand Together Contra Costa

Stanford University

Step Forward Foundation

Stella Terpstra, Esq., Law Office of Joshua J. Mikrut PLC**

Susanne Jonas

Susie Zeiger

Sylvia Carrion

Tahirih Justice Center

TakeRoot Justice

Tania N. Valdez, University of Denver Sturm College of Law**

TASSC (Torture Abolition & Survivors’ Support Coalition) International

Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors

Teresa M Graw LLC

The Advocates for Human Rights

The Bortel Firm, LLC

The Door

The Exploitation Intervention Project, The Legal Aid Society

The Immigrant and Refugee Task Force of Temple Beth Hatfiloh

The Law Office of Joshua Mikrut, PLC

The Legal Aid Society (New York)

The Legal Aid Society of Westchester County

The Legal Project

The Program for Torture Victims

The Right to Immigration Institute

Tilly Kamin

Tisocco Immigration PLLC

Triche Immigration Appeals

Tulane Law School, Immigrant Rights Clinic

Tuyana Kupisk

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

UC Davis

UCLA Immigrant Family Legal Clinic

UndocuBlack Network

University of Baltimore School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic

University of Detroit Mercy Law Immigration Clinic

University of Illinois Immigration Law Clinic

University of Maine School of Law

University of Maryland Carey School of Law

University of Massachusetts School of Law Immigration Law Clinic

University of Miami School of Law, Immigration Clinic

University of Pittsburgh School of Law

University of San Francisco School of Law, Immigration & Deportation Defense Clinic

University of Southern California Immigration Clinic

University of Tulsa College of Law Legal Clinic


UNLV Immigration Clinic

Urban Justice Center Domestic Violence Project

Valeria Gomez, Clinical Teaching Fellow, University of Connecticut School of Law**


Viridiana Mireles

Washington Defender Association

Washington Office on Latin America

Wasser Law

Women’s Refugee Commission

Yakov Wiegmann

YMCA International Services

Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights


Zachary Brugman, Esq.


*Name and country have been changed to preserve confidentiality.
**Institution named for identification purposes only.

[1] Matter of A-B-, 27 I. & N. Dec. 316, 320 (A.G. 2018).

[2] Following A-B-, the matter had been remanded to the BIA, but the judge issued a new decision which the BIA affirmed on June 30, 2020.

[3] See Matter of A-B-, 28 I. & N. Dec. 199 (A.G. 2021).

[4] Id. at 204.

[5] Matter of A-C-A-A-, 28 I. & N. Dec. 84, 92 (A.G. 2020).

[6] Matter of L-E-A-, 27 I. & N. Dec. 581, 589 (A.G. 2019).

Photo Caption: U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks to press at the Department of Justice. Photo Credit: Andrew Harnik-Pool via Getty Images