In 2014, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) had ruled in a groundbreaking decision that domestic violence could be a basis for an asylum claim.
Judges will be required to take Sessions ruling into account when decided on asylum cases.
That's defined as someone who is "unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and can not obtain protection in that country, due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future 'on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, '" by the United Nations 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol. The other categories are for race, religion, nationality and political affiliation. She said she was escaping from an ex-husband who had physically and emotionally abused her for years, even after she moved elsewhere in El Salvador.
Sessions overturned a key immigration case that had granted asylum to a Salvadoran woman who had been raped and beaten by her former husband.
"No country provides its citizens with complete security from private criminal activity, and ideal protection is not required", he wrote.
Sessions told immigration judges, whose courts are part of the Justice Department, that his decision "restores sound principles of asylum and long standing principles of immigration law". The Department of Justice remains committed to reducing violence against women and enforcing laws against domestic violence, both in the United States and around the world.
"This is not just about domestic violence, or El Salvador, or gangs", she said.
'"Credible fear claims have sky-rocketed and the percentage of asylum claims found to be meritorious by our judges has declined significantly", stated the attorney general.
The woman could still potentially appeal the case again to the Board of Immigration Appeals, then a federal appeals court and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court.
Immigrant rights advocates say Sessions' decision runs counter to decades of established precedent.
"For reasons understood only by himself, the Attorney General today erased an important legal development that was universally agreed to be correct", they wrote.
But Sessions recently called into question whether such cases merited protection under United States asylum laws.
And immigration courts overall face a backlog of about 700,000 cases of all types.
An administration official said last month that the backlog of asylum cases topped 300,000, almost half the total backlog.