Visa Applicants Denied Under the Muslim Ban File for Classwide Relief

June 16, 2023 News

Media Contact: [email protected]

Visa Applicants Denied Under the Muslim Ban File for Classwide Relief

Federal Judge Calls U.S. State Department’s Handling of the Lawsuit a “Theater of the Absurd”

Washington, DC — After more than five years of court battles and failed settlement attempts, the federal government continues to refuse to provide relief to people who were wrongfully denied visas under former President Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban. In response, the community members and families harmed by the ban have filed a motion on June 15 for class certification—a key step to be recognized as a class eligible for relief—in lawsuits against the U.S. State Department.

Read the class certification brief
Read plaintiffs’ proposed remedial order

Thousands of people were never given a fair chance at a visa and have subsequently been denied family reunification, jobs and educational opportunities. Restarting the visa application process from scratch would generate significant personal expense, including, for some, the need for international travel. Many applicants would be unable to secure an interview appointment for years because of embassy backlogs.

Last month, a federal judge ordered the government back to court to explain why they have yet to create a fair, efficient visa reconsideration process, calling the government’s handling of the lawsuits a “theater of the absurd” in court.

Settlement talks came after the court ruled against the government last summer as a result of related lawsuits: Emami v. Mayorkas, filed on behalf of a group of Muslim Ban victims by Muslim Advocates, Lofti Legal LLC and Perkins Coie LLP, and a parallel case, Pars Equality Center v. Blinken, being litigated by the Iranian American Bar Association, Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus, the National Immigration Law Center and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer.

In last summer’s ruling, the court ordered the government to work with the plaintiffs to create a process to have their stalled or rejected visa applications reconsidered without starting from scratch. The government has since reneged on agreements made in court to create a fair, effective and transparent process.

The Muslim Ban affected more than 41,000 people who otherwise would have been approved for their visas. The proposed class would include nationals of Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen who were denied under the ban between December 8, 2017, and January 20, 2021, were refused a visa waiver and have still been unable to obtain visas.

“Whether we were born here or came from someplace else, we all deserve the freedom to seek a better life. More than 40,000 people have been trapped in an impossible situation for over half a decade because the Biden administration is turning relief owed to those harmed by the Muslim Ban, a policy President Biden himself rescinded on his first day in office, into an endless tale of excuses,” said Hammad Alam, national security and civil rights staff attorney and program manager at the Asian Law Caucus. “Today, community members across the world are calling on the government to abide by the court's ruling deeming their response to date unlawful and now create a fair and effective process that helps repair the lasting harms of the Muslim ban.”

“We see time and again how the U.S. weaponizes its immigration system against Black, Brown, Muslim and poor communities. Class members in these cases have been prevented for five years from seeing loved ones, holding their grandchildren and celebrating important life events with their families. It’s time the Biden administration kept its promise of reunifying the thousands of families who are still separated as a result of the Muslim Ban by re-adjudicating their visa applications and granting visas to all who are eligible,” said Muslim Advocates Staff Attorney Christopher Godshall-Bennett.