Rescinding Approved Visas Is Part of Broader Anti-Muslim, Anti-Immigrant Agenda, Attorneys Say
September 5, 2019, San Francisco – The Center for Constitutional Rights sued the Trump administration for rescinding approved visas for nearly three dozen Yemeni family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents after Trump’s Muslim Ban took effect. Following interviews with State Department officials, spouses, parents, and children of the 13 Yemeni-American plaintiffs were told and given written documentation that their visas had been approved. Later, after the Muslim Ban took effect, U.S. Embassy officials reversed course and refused to issue the visas. The lawsuit, filed last night, claims rescinding the visas is unlawful and demands they be issued immediately.
“The Muslim Ban has been in effect for almost two years, and it continues to wreak havoc among families and their broader communities,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Staff Attorney Diala Shamas. “Yet again, the Trump administration is breaking the law to prevent families from being reunited – we see this over and over, whether it’s at the border or at consulates overseas.”
Fleeing war and the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, each visa applicant appeared for an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti between April and December of 2017. At the close of the interview, each applicant was told that their visa had been approved, was provided a written document that stated “Your visa is approved,” and surrendered their passport in order to receive the printed visa. However, after Trump’s Muslim Ban took effect, the applicants were told their visas had been denied due to the Ban—though the Ban itself states it does not allow the revocation of visas. The Muslim Ban was issued on September 24, 2017, but was stayed by the courts until December 4, 2017. The complaint filed today alleges that, in several cases, the embassy delayed issuing the visas until the stay was lifted, so as to—unlawfully, according to attorneys—deny them pursuant to the Ban.
“This Ban has shown its true colors. It separates families from one another: children from their parents, and spouses from their loved ones,” said Hanna Dobashi, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “As an American citizen, I felt like I had my ‘American Dream’ taken away. I cry to my husband every night, and he tells me to pray that we can be with each other soon. But seeing so many people fight for what is right gives us hope.”
The plaintiffs are attempting to bring their families to join them in the U.S. so as to protect them from the dire situation in Yemen— a war that has caused widespread violence, famine, and disease. Some of the plaintiffs and their families have been stranded in Djibouti for up to three years, while others have been forced to return to war-torn Yemen, putting their education, work, and lives on hold while they wait to be reunited in the U.S. Two of the plaintiffs in the case spoke with Center for Constitutional Rights attorneys over a year ago when the legal team was in Djibouti researching “Window Dressing the Muslim Ban: Reports of Waivers and Mass Denials From Yemeni-American Families Stuck in Limbo,” a report documenting the impact of the Muslim Ban on Yemeni nationals applying for visas.
This case closely tracks another case, Alobahy v. Trump, filed in January of this year by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Debevoise & Plimpton, on behalf of three other Yemeni-Americans who all had also received approval notices. Shortly after filing Alobahy, our clients were all granted visas and have since been reunited in the United States.
For more information on today’s case, Dobashi v. Trump, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case page.
Dobashi v. Trump was filed in the Northern District of California by the Center for Constitutional Rights, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, and the immigration law firm of Van Der Hout, LLP.
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.