Rights groups sue State Department for refusing to process diversity visa applications News
Rights groups sue State Department for refusing to process diversity visa applications

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) joined forces with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the National Immigration Law Center [advocacy websites], and Jenner and Block, LLP [official website] on Thursday in filing a petition for mandamus and complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief [complaint, PDF] against the US State Department [official website] for refusing to process immigrant visa applications of the 2017 US Diversity Visa Program [USCIS backgrounder] lottery winners coming from the six countries covered by President Donald Trump‘s [official profile] March travel ban [JURIST report]. Stating that the complaint does not challenge the president’s authority to impose the travel ban, the plaintiffs claim that Trump’s ban does not expressly prohibit visa issuance and further pointed out that visa issuance and entry are distinct matters under governing statutes. The complaint goes on to state that the:

policy violates statutes and regulations requiring the issuance of immigrant visas to diversity visa lottery winners who are statutorily eligible, and it incorrectly conflates the Executive Order’s ban on entry with a ban on visa issuance. … The Executive Order does not (and could not) require that senseless result. The Order does not instruct the State Department to deny diversity immigrant visas, nor does it explain why denying diversity immigrant visas is necessary, or even helpful, to effectuate a temporary entry ban …. The State Department’s policy imposes irreparable harm on Plaintiffs in violation of consular officials’ non-discretionary duty to issue visas to eligible applicants, without any justification.

The case was filed with the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website], and asks that the government process the applications of lottery winners by September 30, as required by statutes and regulations. Radad Furooz, one of the plaintiff’s in the case said [ACLU report] that he “sold everything I had to get the chance to travel to the USA. I have nothing and nowhere to go now. The executive order travel ban has destroyed my dreams.”

The travel ban has been a contentious topic since the Trump administration first implemented the executive order [materials], and continues to face a series of federal legal action. Last month, a judge for the US District Court for the District of Hawaii [official website] expanded [JURIST report] the exemptions permitted under the Trump administration’s temporary travel ban on visitors from six predominantly Muslim countries to include grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and brothers-and-sisters-in-law. The federal government appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court [official website], which affirmed the district court’s ruling, thereby exempting grandparents and other relatives from the ban. In June, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] against the majority of Trump’s revised executive order limiting travel from six Muslim-majority countries. That ruling affirmed [JURIST report] the majority of a district court injunction in March that blocked the order from being enforced. In May, a federal district court in Washington granted [JURIST report] a temporary restraining order to allow legal aid groups to continue to provide certain kinds of assistance to undocumented immigrants.