A Monday ruling by Attorney General William Barr that limited the ability of migrants to seek asylum in the U.S. is the latest example of the Trump administration's use of a unique power of the attorney general's office to reshape immigration law, NBC News reported.
Barr used a process called "certification" to issue a decision on Monday that closes the door on most asylum seekers who fear persecution due to family ties, overturning years of precedent.
The case involves a Mexican man who said he was threatened by gangs when his father refused to let them use his store. U.S. law requires asylum seekers to prove they fear persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a "particular social group." The Board of Immigration Appeals determined that the man's family constituted a social group.
Barr reversed that finding, writing that a family does not qualify as such a group just because it is being persecuted. He was able to reshape the law because immigration courts are part of the executive branch.
Critics believe the system puts too much power in the hands of the AG and Barr's decision is expected to be challenged in court. But in the short term this could mean hundreds or thousands of those arriving at the border with claims of being targeted due to family ties do not qualify for protection.