CCR and Muslim Advocates File FOIA Lawsuit on Opaque Muslim Ban Waiver Process
Washington, DC – Following the United States Supreme Court decision to uphold the Muslim Ban, Muslim Advocates (MA) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit demanding documents from federal agencies related to the purported waiver scheme that has become the only avenue for relief for dozens of Iranian, Syrian, and Yemeni families seeking entry to the U.S.
This January, the groups filed a FOIA request seeking information on the administration’s process of granting case-by-case waivers from the Muslim Ban. Despite the administration’s claim that the waiver process would be “robust,” the organizations have documented reports of mass denials to people who should, according to the administration’s guidelines, be eligible for a waiver, casting doubt on whether a meaningful process exists at all, or where it is, in fact, left up to consular discretion as alleged. The request was sent to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of State, Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). All the agencies summarily ignored the request. The lawsuit is demanding that the government comply with its legal obligations and provide the public with much-needed clarity about the waiver process.
“In the aftermath of this week’s Supreme Court decision allowing the Muslim Ban to remain in effect indefinitely, the waiver process is the only hope for thousands of families seeking to be reunited,” said Sirine Shebaya, Senior Staff Attorney for Muslim Advocates. “The American public deserves to know how that process is being implemented, and deserves information about how affected individuals can access it.”
The original request came on the heels of the organizations receiving reports of unprecedented numbers of people being denied visas and waivers, particularly Yemenis stranded in Djibouti in the wake of the war in Yemen who are awaiting reunification with family members in the United States. The organizations received reports of other U.S. consulates issuing similar denial letters during the same week—including in Armenia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Jordan. Window Dressing the Muslim Ban, a report recently released by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Yale Law School cited by Justice Breyer in his dissenting opinion on the Muslim Ban, documented the opacity of the process, the chaos that it has sown across affected communities, and the devastating impact it has had on families.
“Families will continue to seek ways to pry open the gates that have been slammed shut by the Supreme Court,” said Diala Shamas, a staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “Until this administration reverses its course, the many individuals that we met with who are stranded in places like Djibouti and elsewhere deserve information on how to navigate this administration’s Machiavellian waiver process.”
Read today’s filing here.
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.