Attorney General Barr abruptly changed the course of asylum law in the United States on July 29, 2019, in his decision in Matter of L-E-A-. Barr declared that usually, family-based, particular social group asylum claims would fail due to a lack of specific social distinction. Essentially, Barr decided that in order to constitute a cognizable particular social group, a family would have to be well-known within the society in question. While social distinction has been a component of asylum law jurisprudence for some time, never before was there the requirement of specific social distinction. Despite making a major change to asylum law, Barr offered little support for his argument, and the explanation he did provide is grounded in a misunderstanding and misquoting of case law; his decision is arbitrary and capricious. While Barr was acting within his authority as Attorney General and head of the Board of Immigration Appeals when he issued this decision, he was clearly motivated by a political agenda. This decision is yet another attack on immigrant families and will negatively impact hundreds of thousands of claims, especially those of unaccompanied children. In the interest of justice and the balance of powers, courts should use their power of judicial review to hold that Barr’s decision does not merit deference under the second step of the Chevron doctrine
Schmalz Fullam, Danielle L., "The Folly of the Famous Family: Why Matter of L-E- A-’s Definition of Distinction Does Not Merit Deference" (2021). Connecticut Law Review. 467.