In a ruling issued on Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered immigration judges to stop granting asylum to most victims of gang violence and domestic abuse.
The decision will make it much more difficult for victims of violence to qualify for asylum protections. "Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum," Sessions wrote in his decision.
At a training conference for immigration judges on Monday, Sessions said this ruling "restore[d] sound principles" of asylum and immigration law, CNN reports.
Denise Gilman, director of the immigration clinic at the University of Texas' law school, told the Los Angeles Times that many women currently in detention "might lose their right to obtain protection and be deported to dangerous situations" as a result of this ruling.
Decisions by the attorney general carry considerable weight: As head of the Department of the Justice, Sessions' decisions serve as precedents that immigration judges are bound to follow.
The ruling will likely be challenged by immigration advocates, who have continually pushed back against Sessions' efforts to tighten immigration laws and limit who can seek asylum in the United States.