U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers remarks on immigration enforcement during the Sheriff's Coalition Annual Spring Meeting in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Jose Luis Gonzalez / REUTERS

On Monday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a radical decision that will undoubtedly result in death or significant harm to some of the world’s most vulnerable women: victims of domestic violence who live in countries that do not, or cannot, protect them from their abusive partners. Over the past two decades, the United States has provided a safe haven to many of these women through its asylum laws. In a heartless move that flouts established U.S. law and international human rights standards, Sessions found that a domestic violence victim from El Salvador—perhaps the most dangerous country on earth in which to be a woman—would not qualify for asylum, even though her own country had utterly failed to protect her.

In previous years, whether the United States was under a Republican or Democratic president, such a decision would have been unthinkable. The State Department’s

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  • CAROLINE BETTINGER-LÓPEZ is Professor of Clinical Legal Education and Director of the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law and an Adjunct Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. From 2015 to 2017, she served as White House Adviser on Violence Against Women and a Senior Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.
  • RACHEL VOGELSTEIN is Douglas Dillon Senior Fellow and Director of the Women and Foreign Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations and an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown Law School. From 2009 to 2012, she was Director of Policy and Senior Adviser to Secretary Hillary Clinton in the Office of Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State.
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