SAN FRANCISCO - Today, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California filed suit against Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, demanding that the State Department issue a decision on an Iranian family’s application to immigrate to the United States. Though the Muslim Ban excludes most Iranian nationals from the United States, plaintiffs are eligible for and have applied for a waiver from the Ban.
In May 2017, the family was selected in the diversity visa lottery program, which provided them a rare and precious opportunity to immigrate to the United States and reunite with their extended family in the Bay Area. Plaintiffs have completed the necessary procedural steps on the visa and waiver applications, but the government has failed to make a final decision. If the family doesn’t receive a decision by the September 30, 2018 deadline for issuance of diversity visas this year, they will lose their spot in the diversity visa lottery.
The lawsuit alleges that the State Department has unreasonably delayed in carrying out its mandatory duty to make decisions on visa applications and applications for waivers.
“The government must issue decisions on waivers visas and waivers within a reasonable amount of time, otherwise it would send a message to the world that the waiver process outlined in the Muslim Ban is a sham,” said Vasudha Talla, Staff Attorney for the ACLU Foundation of Northern California. “Our plaintiffs want to be reunited with their families and deserve better than a bureaucratic runaround.”
Under Presidential Proclamation 9645 -- commonly known as the Muslim Ban -- along with other federal law, State Department officials are required to issue decisions on visa applications.
In the Supreme Court’s recent decision rejecting legal challenges to the Muslim Ban, the majority opinion cited the Ban’s creation of a waiver program as a means of entry for individuals like the plaintiffs who meet the standards for the waiver. Attorneys for the federal government confirmed on record that every eligible visa applicant is considered for a waiver from the Ban. In today’s lawsuit, the plaintiffs argue that they face irreparable harm and may lose their chance to immigrate because of the State Department’s unreasonable delay in issuing a decision on their waiver and visa applications.
The case, Hakimi et al v. Pompeo, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.