Community Members Wrongfully Denied Visas from Trump’s Muslim Ban Win Major Agreement To Repair Far-Reaching Harms

May 15, 2024 News

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Community Members Wrongfully Denied Visas from Trump’s Muslim Ban Win Major Agreement To Repair Far-Reaching Harms

SAN FRANCISCO — In an unwavering assertion of people’s rights to find safety and a better life, a federal judge has approved a major agreement that provides a clear visa reconsideration process, including waived application fees, to nearly 25,000 community members from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen who were harmed by the Trump administration’s Muslim Ban.

As a result of former President Trump’s Muslim Ban, the policy denied thousands of people a fair chance at obtaining a visa and subsequently deprived them of opportunities for family reunification, jobs, and education. In 2018, community members who were unjustly denied their visas and immigration services groups like Pars Equality Center filed lawsuits to ensure the U.S. government created a fair, efficient visa reconsideration process. Since then, the U.S. government has dragged its feet, despite consistent rulings from the court confirming the State Department’s responsibility. Last year, the federal judge went so far as to call the government’s handling of the lawsuits a “theater of the absurd.” In March, the judge consolidated the two cases, Emami v. Nielsen and Pars Equality Center v. Blinken, and granted them class-action status—calling out the government for being “careless and obstructive” and “wholly unjust,” and for “hobbl[ing] the fair administration of justice.”

“My family should have had its visas considered more than six years ago, but we’re living in limbo because the State Department refused to make things right,” said Maral Tabrizi. “My child turned six in February and has never met her grandparents because of these unfair denials. Starting from scratch in the application process would wipe out our savings. President Biden ended the Muslim Ban on his first day in office, and still former President Trump is threatening to bring it back. With this federal court ruling, we’re making it unmistakable that the harms remain, and that there’s a clear, simple solution that lives up to the best of U.S. values: an efficient, transparent process that gives us the fair chance we were cruelly denied because of who we are.”

The agreement requires notice to all eligible class members on how to reapply for a visa and obtain a fee waiver for new nonimmigrant or immigrant visa applications. Class members can also request prioritization for consular interviews, and the U.S. government must provide periodic reports to the court on the resolution of class member disputes, the number of fee waivers claimed, and, ultimately, the total number of visas issued and refused under this agreement.

“Despite ending the Ban in 2021, tens of thousands have remained trapped in a black hole, missing out on more and more life events happening in their families across the world for the past seven years,” said Shabnam Lotfi, Lotfi Legal LLC.

”It is a testament to our plaintiffs, community, and coalition who have demonstrated an unwavering commitment in the face of years of adversity and heartache, to repair those unconscionable harms and pursue lasting justice in this hard-fought case,” said Babak Yousefzadeh, Iranian American Bar Association.

“For too long, families have been unjustly separated because of discriminatory immigration policies. Despite the rescission of the Muslim Ban, the lingering effects continue to haunt countless individuals who have been trapped in this situation for far too long,” said Paris Etemadi Scott, Pars Equality Center. “This agreement offers a glimmer of hope, providing a clear pathway for visa reconsideration and offering much-needed relief.”

“Our class action victory was achieved through the relentless and fearless advocacy of community members harmed by the Muslim Ban,” said Zahra Billoo, executive director of CAIR San Francisco Bay Area and co-chair of the No Muslim Ban Ever coalition. “As we move forward to ensure every eligible community member gets their fair chance at travel and family unity, a powerful movement of people in the U.S. and around the world are working to make sure this never happens again.”

The Emami plaintiffs are represented by Muslim Advocates, Lotfi Legal LLC, and Perkins Coie LLP, and the Pars Equality Center plaintiffs are represented by the Iranian American Bar Association, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, CAIR California, the National Immigration Law Center, and Arnold & Porter. The No Muslim Ban Ever coalition is the largest grassroots campaign that worked to repeal the Trump administration’s Muslim and African Bans.

In the coming weeks, the No Muslim Ban Ever coalition and partner organizations will provide details on how eligible community members can get more information and apply for their visas. Read the Emami v. Nielsen agreement.