In response to the Trump Administration’s executive order to suspend the processing of visas for foreign nationals from seven Middle Eastern and North African nations, a lawsuit has been filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle by the American Immigration Council, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. The lawsuit asserts that the president’s executive order conflicts with current federal laws banning discrimination as well as the constitutional right to equal protection under the law.
The class action suit represents lawful permanent residents of the United States and U.S. citizens who have applied for visas on behalf of their immediate family members who are foreign nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. These are families who seek to be reunited and who have already submitted to and passed through the scrutiny of the application and screening procedures.
Some have been blocked from entering the U.S. after they had already arrived at U.S. airports. Others are now seeing their visa applications revoked or suspended before making their departures. Becca Heller, the director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, told the New York Times, “We’ve gotten reports of people being detained all over the country. They’re literally pouring in by the minute.”
COULD THIS EXECUTIVE ORDER PUT CHILDREN AT RISK?
Reema Dahman has a teenage son in war-ravaged Syria. She’s trying to bring him to safety in the United States, and he was about to be interviewed for his visa – the final step in the process – when the executive order suspended visa interviews in Syria. “I’m heartbroken,” Ms. Dahman said. “Every day I am filled with anguish at what might become of my son, and this order just crushed my hopes that I could get him out of harm’s way anytime soon.” Juweiya Ali’s 6-year-old son is also at risk in Somalia. Ms. Ali is also concerned that visa processing will remain on hold indefinitely.
They are not alone. The plaintiffs in this lawsuit are thousands of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents whose immediate family members have already submitted to medical examinations and screenings for security purposes. Many have already been interviewed and approved for visas. Their families in the United States have paid substantial amounts in application fees and have meticulously pursued the immigration process precisely as the law requires. Many detainees have been reportedly held at U.S. airports for hours without access to family, friends, or legal assistance.
If your own family is dealing with any immigration-related legal issue, the wisest move you can make is to consult at once with a good immigration lawyer who can assess your personal situation and will then work hard for the best possible resolution. If you are trying to reunite your family or have any immigration-related legal questions or concerns, let an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney provide the legal guidance and services you need.
Executive Order 13769, issued January 27 – “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” – is shattering the reunification hopes of thousands of families of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents of the U.S. Specifically, the lawsuit filed in the District Court in Seattle contends that Section 3 of the executive order is a violation of the provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act that prohibits discrimination on the basis of nationality, place of birth, place of residence, gender, or race when visas are issued.
WHAT DO IMMIGRANT RIGHTS ACTIVISTS SAY ABOUT THE EXECUTIVE ORDER?
Matt Adams is the Legal Director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. “The Constitution and immigration laws plainly prohibit the government from denying visas or suspending processing based on this type of discrimination,” Adams says. He adds that the president “is tearing families apart, not to protect our country, but to score points with his anti-immigrant supporters.”
Critics have characterized Executive Order 13769 as a “Muslim ban.” Mary Kenney is a Senior Attorney for the American Immigration Council. She says that Section 3 of the president’s executive order is unnecessary and discriminatory. “There is no legitimate basis to single out nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries and refuse to process their visa applications or honor visas that have already been issued,” Kenney says.
The executive order has received extensive national and international criticism, with protests at New York’s JFK International Airport, other U.S. airports, U.S. cities, and other cities in several parts of the world. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Congressman John Lewis of Georgia joined demonstrations in their own home states, and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe joined a protest at Dulles International Airport.
ARE THERE ANY EXCEPTIONS TO THE EXECUTIVE ORDER?
The executive order is not absolute. It permits the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to issue and honor visas to foreign nationals of the seven nations on a case-by-case basis and when in the national interest. But the Washington Post reports that the executive order is directly impacting approximately 90,000 people – that’s the number of visas issued to foreign nationals from the seven affected nations in fiscal 2015. It also means that parents like Reema Dahman and Juweiya Ali are not likely to have their children’s cases individually reviewed by a cabinet secretary.
The American Immigration Council and many immigration attorneys across the United States are busy advising the families affected by the order and are working vigorously on their behalf. The state of Washington is also filing a legal challenge to the executive order, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations also says that it plans to file a lawsuit. Still, on January 29, a White House spokesperson said, “It is the right and duty of the President to do everything in his legal and constitutional power to protect the American people…. All stopped visas will remain stopped. All halted admissions will remain halted. All restricted travel will remain prohibited.”
If you’re confused about immigration right now, you are not alone. Immigration is always complicated, and with a new administration currently altering a number of immigration policies, the situation is probably more confusing and complicated than ever. Until the courts resolve these controversies, immigrants and their families may need considerable legal guidance. An experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney can help families understand what is happening and will work to help families who are seeking to reunite with their loved ones.