Groups Sue U.S. Over Lack of Transparency in Visa Waiver Program MOU With Israel

February 23, 2024, Washington, D.C. – This morning, Van Der Hout LLP, National Immigration Project, Center for Constitutional Rights, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and Muslim Advocates filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court in Northern California requesting that the court compel the Departments of State (DOS) and Homeland Security (DHS) to respond to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted by Van Der Hout LLP on October 27, 2023, after DHS and DOS improperly refused to conduct a search or to respond to the request at all.

The FOIA request submitted by Van Der Hout LLP sought information related to the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the U.S. and Israeli governments in July of 2023, allowing Israel to be a part of the “Visa Waiver Program,” which permits certain countries’ citizens to come to the U.S. without a formal visa as long as those countries similarly allow U.S. citizens to come into their countries. Neither department has produced any documentation in response to the request, and there has been no communication from the U.S. government on the submission since last November. 

The court filing is the next step in seeking transparency about the U.S. government’s  introduction ofIsrael into the VWP despite the Israeli government’s violation of its terms through its discrimination against Palestinian Americans seeking entry into Israel.

Johnny Sinodis, Partner at Van Der Hout LLP, said, Countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program are obligated to treat all U.S. citizens equally regardless of their background, and the U.S. government is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Visa Waiver Program’s conditions. In 2023, the U.S. government shirked its duty by entering into an undisclosed Memorandum of Understanding permitting Israel to create and impose a two-tiered discriminatory system: one for Palestinian Americans, and another for everyone else. Our community members and the American public have an unequivocal right to know the terms of that Memorandum of Understanding, and this lawsuit will ensure that their right is fulfilled.”

Amber Qureshi, Staff Attorney at the National Immigration Project, said, “Throughout the past several months, the U.S. government’s lack of oversight and freehand approach towards the Israeli government has been on full display. This administration’s admission of Israel into the Visa Waiver Program is just one more example. We will continue working with our partners to ensure that the government delivers the transparency and accountability our communities need and deserve."

ADC National Executive Director Abed Ayoub said, “There is no excuse for the government to ignore this request. Thanks to the tireless work of our partners and allies, we are able to continue to hold the government accountable.”`

Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Attorney Diala Shamas said, “This administration entered into an MoU with the Government of Israel that discriminates against Palestinian Americans. It is yet another example of the Biden administration’s carte blanche approach to Israel’s flagrant violations of the law that long predated Israel’s assault on Gaza.”

Golnaz Fakhimi, legal director of Muslim Advocates, said, “The U.S. is complicit in Israel’s discrimination against Palestinian Americans at its borders, echoing U.S. complicity in Israel’s ongoing genocide of Palestinians and the racist enforcement of U.S. borders. This lawsuit seeks transparency into one piece of a much larger pattern of unacceptable disregard for our communities’ lives and dignity.”   

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


Last modified 

February 23, 2024