Spouses, Children of Plaintiffs Are Arriving in New York
January 11, 2019, New York – Yemeni-Americans who for more than a year had been prevented from joining their families in the United States because of Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban are arriving in New York City. Last month, U.S.-citizen family members of Sawsan Almardahi, who arrived today with her three U.S. citizen children, and Amal Al Rabuoi, who is due to arrive tomorrow, filed a federal lawsuit over the State Department’s refusal to issue their visas, which had already been approved prior to the Muslim Ban. Shortly after the lawsuit was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights and co-counsel, Sawsan and Amal received their visas.
“While we are relieved for our clients’ sake, it is tragic that they had to resort to litigation to get visas they were entitled to all along,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Staff Attorney Diala Shamas. “Our clients’ experience belies any purported security rationale for the Ban. Until Congress repeals Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban, many more families will continue to be needlessly separated.”
Sawsan and Amal submitted visa applications years ago, were interviewed by State Department representatives at the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti, were told that their visas had been approved, and were provided with written documentation stating “Your visa is approved” months before the Muslim Ban went into effect. According to the complaint, U.S. Embassy officials subsequently reversed approval of the visas, retroactively applying the ban, and delayed printing the visas until after the Supreme Court lifted the stay on the ban—all of which attorneys say was unlawful. More than a year passed between the alleged reversal and the filing of the lawsuit. Then, the visas were issued within weeks of the filing.
“The struggle that my wife and I have gone through in the past year is over, but for many others the injustice continues. The Muslim Ban was implemented purely for political gain, with no concern for the human side of it. The fact that many people must endure so much pain and misery to be united with their loved ones is in no way justifiable,” said Mohammed Alobahy, a plaintiff in the case and the husband of Amal Al Rabuoi who is due to arrive in New York tomorrow. “I have faith in my country’s justice system, and I have faith that justice will be served.”
“Finally, after one year and three months of suffering, with me and my family losing hope, finally we were contacted by the embassy for my wife’s visa,” said Hussain Saleh. “Our joy today being back home in the U.S. with my wife and children is a victory against the discrimination that’s haunting U.S. citizens and their families.”
As a result of the reversals, Sawsan, her husband, plaintiff Hussain Saleh, and their three U.S. citizen children were stranded in Djibouti for more than a year, at a cost of several thousand dollars per month in the expensive country. Sawsan arrived in New York today, along with her and Hussain’s three children, aged 2, 5, and 8. Amal, too, was stuck in Djibouti for well over a year, separated from her husband, plaintiff Mohammed Alobahy, who lives in New York. The visa applicants sought to join their families in the U.S. and to escape a violent and all-consuming war in Yemen. Due to the delay in issuing their visas and the extreme violence in Yemen, they were effectively trapped in Djibouti until they were able to travel to the U.S. this week.
The lawsuit, brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights and co-counsel at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, argues that State Department’s actions violated federal laws and constitutional protections, including the right to due process.
For more information, 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.