NEW YORK, NY, December 18, 2018 – Yesterday evening, a group of Yemeni-Americans filed a federal lawsuit over the State Department’s refusal to issue their spouses and children visas that had already been approved prior to the Muslim Ban. The suit alleges that U.S. Embassy officials approved the plaintiffs’ visas, only to reverse that decision months later, unlawfully applying the Trump administration’s Muslim Ban to revoke previously approved visas – something that the ban does not permit.
“Our clients’ experience displays the discriminatory motive behind the Muslim Ban,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Staff Attorney Diala Shamas. “The Trump administration is so determined to keep immigrants out that it has unlawfully, retroactively, and mercilessly applied the ban to families who were supposed to have been among the lucky few to escape its sweeping reach.”
According to the complaint, the applicants filed petitions for visas, were interviewed by State Department representatives at the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti, were told orally that their visas had been granted, and were provided with written documentation stating “Your visa is approved” months before the Muslim Ban went into effect. The case alleges that U.S. Embassy officials subsequently unlawfully reversed their approval of the visas, retroactively applying the ban to the plaintiffs and denying their visas. Attorneys allege that the State Department delayed printing the visas until after the Supreme Court lifted the stay on Trump’s Muslim Ban.
“My family has been devastated,” said Hussain Saleh, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “My three children and I are U.S. citizens, but my wife, their mother, can’t join us in America. So we are all here, stuck in Djibouti. How are we supposed to leave a piece of our family behind or worse – send her back to a war zone? This is cruel.”
The visa applicants sought to join their families in the U.S. in order to escape a violent and all-consuming war in Yemen. The complaint notes that the State Department itself has stated that “[n]o part of Yemen is immune to violence” and that it lists Yemen as a “Do Not Travel” country. As a result of being denied visas and their inability to return to Yemen due to violence and related economic effects of the war, the plaintiffs have been trapped in Djibouti, separated from their families, for more than a year.
“Our community is being hit hard by Trump’s Muslim Ban, especially in light of the war in Yemen,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Legal Worker Ibraham Qatabi. “This is another family separation crisis and a flat out discriminatory practice that cannot be allowed to stand.”
The lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights and co-counsel at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP,argues that these actions violate federal laws and constitutional protections, including the right to due process. It seeks an order from the court to issue the visas that were already approved.
For more information on Alobahy v. Trump, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case page.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, The Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.