July 11, 2018
DISTRICT COURT SIDES WITH IRANIAN REFUGEES UNLAWFULLY DENIED ASYLUM
(San Jose, CA) – Yesterday, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California sided with plaintiffs in Doe v. Nielsen, which challenges the mass denials of Iranian religious minority refugees who abandoned their homes in Iran and traveled to Vienna at the invitation of the U.S. government to complete processing of their refugee applications under the Lautenberg Amendment. The denials left the refugee applicants stranded in Vienna with uncertain futures. The Court’s decision orders the government to disclose individualized reasons for the mass denials to allow plaintiffs to meaningfully request government review of these denials.
In the order, Judge Beth Labson Freeman writes: “DHS retains an enormous amount of authority and discretion to adjudicate refugee applications, but they do not have the discretion to violate the law.”
The Lautenberg Amendment facilitates the refugee admission of certain vulnerable groups, and persecuted religious minorities from Iran became eligible for the Amendment’s protections in 2004. Under this program that operates through Vienna, U.S. residents submit an application on behalf of qualified refugee applicants in Iran. Applicants then must pass an initial screening and, if successful, travel to Austria to continue the processing of their application to the United States. The program was historically successful, with nearly 100% of the applicants being processed in a few months in Austria and resettling in the United States.
However, in February 2018, nearly 90 Iranian Christians, Mandeans, and other religious minorities who had already traveled with the program received notices of denial that stated only that they were being denied “as a matter of discretion.” Many of them had been waiting for nearly a year in the hope that they would be able to reunite with family members and safely practice their religious beliefs in the United States.
The Court also granted plaintiffs’ motion for class certification for these nearly 90 individuals, who have been at risk of deportation back to Iran. Plaintiffs in the class include Iranian individuals and the U.S. family members who sponsored their applications, represented by Latham & Watkins LLP and the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) at the Urban Justice Center.
Oral arguments in Doe v. Nielsen were heard on June 22, argued by Mariko Hirose, IRAP’s Litigation Director, and Belinda Lee, a Latham & Watkins partner.
Mariko Hirose, Litigation Director of IRAP, said: “The U.S. government had abandoned our Iranian refugee clients in a terrible, Kafkaesque situation — they had left their homes in Iran, sold their belongings, and traveled to Vienna with every expectation that they would soon be united with their family members in U.S., only to be told that their admission was denied ‘as a matter of discretion.’ We are heartened that the Court recognized that the government cannot simply violate the explicit, heightened protections that Congress gave to this group of refugees.”
“Congress originally enacted the Lautenberg Amendment to shelter and safeguard vulnerable populations, so we are thrilled to see the amendment being applied in this instance, thereby ensuring that our clients can find safety and security in the United States,” said Belinda Lee, partner at Latham & Watkins. “It’s not an exaggeration to call this a victory for the rule of law.”
June 26, 2018
The Supreme Court allows Travel Ban to stand; Iranian American Organizations say the fight is not over
Today, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed an injunction blocking the enforcement of the Travel Ban, affirming the executive’s broad power to make immigration policy. The Court’s decision will allow the administration’s callous executive order to continue separating families and upending lives.
While this decision is extremely disappointing for many including Pars Equality Center’s clients, it is limited to the question of whether the policy violated the law. A separate question remains whether the Trump administration implemented the policy in a discriminatory manner, creating a separate and inherently unequal immigration system for Iranians and individuals from Muslim countries.
During the Supreme Court's oral arguments in April, an amicus brief filed by Pars Equality Center and other Iranian American organizations, was explicitly referenced. The brief included numerous stories of Iranian Americans separated from loved ones or unable to come to the United States as a result of the Travel Ban. The two dissents today cited this amicus brief (pg. 61; pg. 86). While the public evidence of the administration’s misconduct was discussed in the amicus brief, that only scratches the surface; no one has been allowed to conduct discovery into the government’s conduct. This decision allows others to do that and to hold the administration accountable for its actions.
We remain committed to protecting the civil liberties of Iranian Americans and will continue to advocate for the Travel Ban’s rejection, both in the halls of Congress and by exploring further options in court.
For Immediate Release
June 21, 2018
Van Hollen Announces New Reporting Requirements on the Trump Travel Ban
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen announced that he successfully secured language as part of the Fiscal Year 2019 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act that would ensure that the public has access to information on President Trump’s travel ban, including the number of visa waivers granted to citizens of the banned countries. To date, the administration has provided no transparency about how the ban is being administered. Senator Van Hollen has repeatedly raised concerns about the travel ban, which may violate our Constitution and immigration law.
“The Trump Administration has claimed to the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the American people that their travel ban is not unfairly targeting Muslims and that waivers are being issued on a case-by-case basis – but they have provided virtually no information to validate that claim. Instead, the process has been shrouded in an unusual level of secrecy that raises serious concerns about its legality,” said Senator Van Hollen. “This legislation will help ensure that the public – and particularly those American citizens with family and friends in the banned countries – have the information they deserve.”
The amendment was included as part of the Manager’s Package and passed with strong bipartisan support. The text is below:
Visa Applicants.--- Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 90 days until September 30, 2019, the Secretary of State, in coordination with the relevant heads of Federal agencies, shall submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees that describes the implementation of Presidential Proclamation 9645 (“Presidential Proclamation Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats”), including the following information for each designated country: (1) the total number of new visa applicants per month, disaggregated by country and visa category; (2) the total number of visa applicants approved and rejected each month, disaggregated by country and visa category; (3) the total number of pending visa applicants, disaggregated by country and visa category; (4) the total number of visa applicants denied a waiver and granted a waiver under section 3(c) of Presidential Proclamation 9645, disaggregated by country and visa category; and, (5) the complete reports submitted to the President every 180 days under section 4 of Presidential Proclamation 9645. For the purposes of such report, the term “designated country” refers to the Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Such report shall be submitted in unclassified form, and shall be made publicly available online.
June 19, 2018
FRIDAY, June 22: District Court to Hear Arguments in Class Action Challenge to Mass Denials of Iranian Refugees
On Friday, June 22 at 9am, the Northern District of California in San Jose will hear a case brought on behalf of Iranian religious minorities who applied for refugee status through the Vienna-based Lautenberg program and were denied en masse “as a matter of discretion.”
Pars Equality Center Staff will be present and speak with the media in support of this case. We would like to invite our community to gather outside the courthouse to show solidarity with the plight of refugees, particularly those affected by the mass denial.
Where: San Jose federal courthouse, 280 South 1st street, San Jose, CA
When: June 22, between 10:00 and 11:00 am
What: The hearing is on a motion for class certification and motion for partial summary judgment on whether the government has the mandatory duty to provide a reason for the mass denials beyond saying it was "as a matter of discretion." More information about the case is available here: https://refugeerights.org/lautenberg-resources/.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Pars Equality Center’s Immigration Services at (408) 261-6405 or by email at email@example.com
June 17, 2018
Consular Officer Describes the Waiver Process as a “Fraud”
According to an article published in Slate, in a case brought by Yemeni visa applicants challenging the administration’s travel ban, plaintiffs submitted two declarations by former consular officers. The affidavits undercut the administration’s position on waivers in multiple ways and confirm that the process is in fact window dressing. To read more, please CLICK HERE.
May 2, 2018
Pars' Very First Corporate Funding Grant From Gilead Sciences
We are pleased to announce our very first Corporate funding grant from Gilead Sciences in the amount of $50,000 to support 40 immigrants and refugees with their Career Pathways. We would like to thank the entire Gilead organization on behalf of Pars Equality Center for their support and trust. Gilead’s commitment to medical innovation, providing access to medicines worldwide, and support of social service and community programs is exceptional, inspiring, and truly unparalleled. We would also like to recognize and thank Dr. Reza Oliyai, Senior Vice President of Pharmaceutical and Biologics Development, at Gilead Sciences for his dedication and guidance.
April 26, 2018
Supreme Court Justices Express Concern About Sham Waiver “Window Dressing” and Reference Pars Equality Center’s Amicus Brief during Travel Ban Oral Arguments
Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a challenge to the legality of President Trump's third Travel Ban. During the argument, three Justices asked questions expressing deep skepticism about the functionality of the waiver "system" put into place by the ban.
During this discussion, the amicus brief filed by Pars Equality Center, IABA and PAAIA was explicitly referenced. Justice Breyer questioned Solicitor Francisco about whether the waiver system is "just window dressing" and referred to our Pars Equality Center brief. Picking up on this theme, Justice Sotomayor expressed similar concern, asking Solicitor Francisco, "what are you personally doing to represent to us that it is, in fact, a real waiver process?" Justice Ginsburg, too, asked about a specific case cited in Pars Equality Center brief of a 10-year-old with cerebral palsy who had been denied a waiver and cannot enter the United States for medical treatment.
The amicus brief can be read HERE.
The amicus brief is a continuation of advocacy in the Pars Equality Center et al v. Trump et al litigation in D.C. district court, in which Pars Equality Center - in collaboration with IABA and PAAIA - and over 25 individuals have challenged President Trump's first, second, and third Travel Bans.
April 25, 2018
Pars Statement on SCOTUS Oral Argument on Travel Ban
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hold oral arguments on the latest version of the Travel Ban in the Hawaii case (formally Donald J. Trump, President of the United States v. State of Hawaii). After the first two iterations of Trump’s Travel Ban were halted in the lower courts, the U.S. Supreme Court permitted the third version to go into effect, thereby preventing nationals from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen from entering the United States.
As you know, Pars Equality Center—in collaboration with PAAIA and IABA—and with the assistance of pro bono counsel Mehri & Skalet and Arnold & Porter, has actively sought to protect the community from the appalling effects of the Travel Ban from its inception. It began when our coalition filed legal challenges to all three iterations of the Travel Ban in court, in which we emphasized the effects of the Travel Ban specifically on the Iranian American community. Since then we have worked with senators to obtain the only publicly available information on the devastating effects of the so-called “waiver provisions” of the Ban. And just last month we filed an amicus brief in support of Hawaii and other plaintiffs in today’s oral arguments.
As of now, it is unclear how the Supreme Court will rule. It was initially believed that the Supreme Court might find a “compromise” position similar to the “bona fide relationship” requirement it imposed in its decision regarding Travel Ban 2.0 (exempting anyone with a bona fide relationship with a U.S. person or entity). However, the Supreme Court’s subsequent ruling permitting Travel Ban 3.0 to go into full effect has called that prediction into question. The Supreme Court will likely be hesitant to issue a ruling constitutionally limiting executive power, especially as to immigration and national security, but will also have to face express discriminatory statements made by this president about the Travel Ban, which has been confirmed by every lower court to have analyzed his statements.
As always, we will keep you apprised of the situation after oral arguments. And regardless of how the Supreme Court ultimately rules, our coalition promises to continue to fight the discriminatory policies underlying the Travel Ban, and to mitigate its devastating effects on our community (and others), whether through the courts, advocacy, or legislation.
April 23, 2018
Senators Send Letter Requesting Clarification of the “Waiver” Process
On April 19, 2018 Senators Van Hollen (D-MD), Murphy (D-CT), and Blumenthal (D-CT) sent a follow-up letter to the State Department (DOS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to request further information on the administration’s implementation of Presidential Proclamation 9645, specifically “waiver provisions” outlined in President Trump’s latest Travel Ban. This follow-up letter is the latest request for clarification in a series of inquiries from the administration initiated by a coalition of prominent Iranian American organizations including PAAIA, IABA, and Pars Equality Center in partnership with an alliance of civil society, advocacy, and legal organizations who met with the senators to discuss the issue in January.
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to lift the stay on the Travel Ban, the coalition received numerous reports of long-pending visa applications under “administrative processing” being denied, en masse rejection of visa applicants, and the unavailability of waiver applications. In response, the coalition sent a letter to the State Department and met with the senators’ offices to ask for their help in obtaining answers from the Trump administration.
The coalition provided the offices with a brief background of our lawsuit, our findings on the ground, and our recommendations and urged them to follow up our letter with one of their own. As a result, Senators Van Hollen and Flake wrote to the departments asking for clarification on the waivers and stated their discontent with the Travel Ban in general. On February 22, the State Department responded to the inquiries which raised more concerns about the clarity of instructions provided to consular officers and also the ostensible number of waivers, only 2, issued by February 15.
In the follow-up letter, the Senators pointed to the lack of information on the baseline criteria required by section 4(a) of the proclamation that requires “the Secretary of State to conduct engagements with the countries subject to the travel restriction on ‘information sharing, identity-management, or risk factor deficiencies’”, and asked for clarification on “the engagements the administration has conducted with the countries identified in the proclamation or the actions the identified countries have taken to come into compliance.”
The follow-up letter also raised concerns about the number of waivers issued and the “inconsistent and incomplete” numbers reported by the State Department. It also alluded to the lack of “meaningful guidance on the waiver program”, specifically the three criteria required for a waiver, “national interest,” “undue hardship,” and “threat to national security.” Given these concerns, the letter requested more information to be provided by April 30, 2018.
We are awaiting responses from the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security and hope to meet with appropriate representatives to discuss the issue more in-depth. We thank Senators Van Hollen, Murphy, and Blumenthal for their help in seeking clarification of the waiver process. PAAIA and the coalition will continue to update you on how the Travel Ban is affecting the Iranian American community.
Please click here to read a full copy of the letter from PAAIA and its coalition.
Please click here to read a full copy of the follow up letter from senators.
March 30, 2018
IRANIAN-AMERICAN ORGANIZATIONS FILE AMICUS BRIEF IN SUPREME COURT TRAVEL BAN CASE
Washington, D.C. (March 30, 2018) – Pars Equality Center, The Iranian American Bar Association, and the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans have filed an amicus (‘friend of the court”) brief with the United States Supreme Court in support of the challenge to the Trump administration’s third travel ban.
Using statistical and anecdotal evidence, the brief shows that the waiver system constructed by the third travel ban is a separate and inherently unequal alternative to the visa process. The extremely high visa rejection rate under the third travel ban has inflicted hardship on countless individuals, including many U.S. citizens and other individuals with bona fide relationships to the United States.
Between the time that the Supreme Court ordered that the third travel ban could go into effect on December 4, 2017, and February 15, 2018, only two waivers had been approved. The government’s implementation of the waiver system confirms that the third travel ban is motivated by a discriminatory purpose.
The following is a handful of many more stories included in the brief:
- Jane Doe #1, a dual citizen of the United States and Iran, petitioned for an immigrant visa on behalf of her fiancé, an Iranian citizen, in 2016. Not long thereafter, Jane Doe #1’s fiancé suffered serious injuries in an automobile accident and lost his right leg at the knee. Since his injury, Jane Doe #1’s fiancé has been unemployed and forced to live with his mother because Iran lacks any systematic accommodations for disabled persons. As a result of the third travel ban, the couple has been separated and forced to postpone their marriage indefinitely.
- John Doe #1 is a U.S. citizen and assistant professor at a U.S. public university. His wife, also an assistant professor at a U.S. public university, is an Iranian citizen and a lawful permanent resident of the United States. John Doe #10 hoped his parents-in-law could come to the United States for the birth of his daughter (their only grandchild) and to help care for his wife and newborn child. Their visas were denied and their request for a waiver was dismissed.
- Hamed Rostamkhani and his wife are lawful permanent residents of the United States and citizens of Iran. Mr. Rostamkhani’s work focuses on assessing natural hazards and their effects on coastal communities and infrastructure in the United States. Mr. Rostamkhani’s parents applied for a visa to so that they could visit him and their grandchildren. Their visas were denied and they were not granted a waiver, even though Mr. Rostamkhani and his parents were never advised of the opportunity to provide information regarding whether they were eligible for a waiver.
The Iranian-American organizations remain committed to protecting the civil liberties of Iranian Americans and are hopeful that the Supreme Court will ultimately block this unjust and discriminatory policy.
The three organizations along with over 25 individual plaintiffs are challenging President Trump’s latest iteration of the travel and refugee bans in federal court in Washington, DC.
The amicus brief, along with other information about the Washington, DC lawsuit, can be found at www.endthetravelban.com
March 22, 2018
Pars and other Iranian American Organizations' Letter regarding Sahar Nowrouzzadeh
The Honorable John Kelly
Chief of Staff
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
The Honorable John Sullivan
Department of State
2201 C St NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear General Kelly and Acting Secretary Sullivan,
We, the undersigned Iranian-American organizations write with the utmost concern regarding the administration’s clear political and discriminatory targeting of civil servant Sahar Nowrouzzadeh. Career public servants are afforded protections against politically-motivated firings, and numerous protections have made it illegal for workers both inside and outside the government to be fired on behalf of their race, heritage, or religion.
On March 15, 2018, the ranking members of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Elijah Cummings, and House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, sent a letter on this subject to the White House Chief of Staff, General John F. Kelly, and the Deputy Secretary of State, John J. Sullivan. In their letter, they revealed receiving new documents indicating that “high level officials at the White House and State Department worked with a network of conservative activists to conduct a “cleaning” of employees…” including Ms. Nowrouzzadeh.
Nowrouzzadeh is a distinguished Iranian American whose invaluable contributions to American national security led to her promotion to prominent positions in the White House, State Department, and Department of Defense. She served in both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, thus demonstrating her proven track-record of adapting her work to the priorities of the sitting president, rather than any political party or preference. Given her prior experience and knowledge of Persian, she could have been an invaluable asset to the Trump administration.
Yet, recent evidence indicates Trump administration officials sought her ouster based on discriminatory intent. Recent documents reveal that when Nowrouzzadeh asked her supervisor Brian Hook for help when confronted with personal attacks from political groups seeking her ouster, officials at the State Department and White House did not defend her but instead used character smears to force her out of her position on the Policy Planning Staff of the State Department.
Julia Haller, White House Liaison, wrote that Nowrouzzadeh “was born in Iran,” which is false and, even if accurate, should have no bearing on this matter. Haller’s suggestion that Nowrouzzadeh’s Iranian heritage should be a factor in assessing whether Nowrouzzadeh could loyally serve in the U.S. government betrays discriminatory intent that appears to be in clear violation of federal protections.
Finally, internal emails reveal that, despite terminating Ms. Nowrouzzadeh’s position on the Policy Planning Staff three months early for the foregoing improper reasons, State Department officials then tried to offer a misleading characterization of her actions: that she had been “return[ed] to a parent office of a civil servant at the completion of a detail assignment” – an objectively false statement. Such an ex post facto “cleaning” of the objective facts further raises red flags and evidences discriminatory intent, which is not only improper but also unlawful under federal law.
As organizations dedicated to ensuring that Iranian Americans contribute their extraordinary talents to civic life in the United States, failure to ensure accountability on Nowrouzzadeh’s unjust ouster risks deterring a generation of Iranian Americans eager to contribute to government service, national security, and civic life in the United States.
We urge the White House and State Department to fully comply with the requests from the ranking members of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Elijah Cummings, and House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, in their letter on this subject dated March 15, 2018. We also urge the administration to empower an independent investigation into the ouster of Nowrouzzadeh and other civil servants that holds those involved appropriately accountable.
Our groups would be willing to meet with you regarding these concerns in the hopes of charting out an acceptable path forward.
Center for Human Rights in Iran
Iranian Alliances Across Borders
Iranian American Bar Association
National Iranian American Council
Pars Equality Center
Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans
United For Iran
Please direct response to:
1629 K St NW #503
Washington, DC 20006
March 6, 2018
Promised Waivers Never Delivered, State Department Statistics Reveal Complete Travel Ban in Effect
Washington, D.C. – A coalition of Iranian American organizations, including the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), the Iranian American Bar Association (IABA), and the Pars Equality Center, released the following joint statement regarding the State Department’s clarification letter of the “waiver provisions” outlined in the Presidential Proclamation 9645 (the Proclamation) known as Travel Ban 3.0. The letter comes in response to the efforts of the coalition partners and their legal counsel working with the offices of Senators Chris Van Hollen and Jeff Flake in seeking an explanation on how the waivers are being processed.
"As Iranian American civil rights and advocacy organizations, we are extremely concerned with the State Department’s response to Senators Chris Van Hollen and Jeff Flake’s request that the administration provide information on the criteria, policies, and procedures for the waivers authorized under the Proclamation.
Only 2 waivers out of 6,555 waiver applications have been approved between December 8, 2017 and January 8, 2018 as a result of the Proclamation. Reuters recently reported that some limited additional waivers have been approved since February 15, 2018 although this has not been confirmed by the State Department. Consular officers barely, if ever, accept visa applicants' waiver packets and supporting documents, thereby leaving no reason to believe that waivers are being appropriately adjudicated pursuant to the Proclamation. The State Department appears to have failed to implement key provisions of the Proclamation that are intended to provide relief to individuals from affected countries.
The response letter also provides vague descriptions of the already ambiguous criteria set for assessment of waivers. In addition, the wholesale rejection of waiver requests compels the conclusion that there is a complete travel ban in effect by the administration. Over 8,406 people from the affected countries filed visa applications, traveled long distances at great expense to go through the charade of a visa interview. With what appears to be around 3 out of 10,000 chance of overcoming all the hurdles to get to a visa to travel, one can only ask why visa interviews are being scheduled at all.
We respectively request a meeting with appropriate representatives at the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security to discuss the implementation of the ‘waiver’ provision in fuller detail.”
PAAIA, IABA, and Pars Equality Center are committed to protecting the civil liberties of Iranian Americans and will continue to advocate against the discriminatory travel ban. The three organizations along with over 25 individual plaintiffs are also challenging President Trump’s latest iteration of the travel and refugee bans in Federal court.
The brief and declarations on the Iranian American organization federal lawsuit can be found at www.endthetravelban.com.
December 5, 2017
Pars Equality Center and partners issue a joint statement about the Supreme Court’s December 4th Travel Ban ruling
Iranian American Organizations’ Joint Statement on Supreme Court Ruling Allowing Full Enforcement of the Trump Travel Ban 3.0.
For Immediate Release:
Contact: Aurora Matthews
Washington, D.C. (December 5, 2017) – A coalition of Iranian American organizations, including Iranian American Bar Association, Pars Equality Center, and the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, released the following joint statement regarding the Supreme Court ruling on Monday to allow the latest version of President Trump’s travel ban to go into effect while legal challenges against it resume:
“As Iranian American civil rights, advocacy, and legal organizations, we are deeply disappointed that the Supreme Court has ruled to allow the Travel Ban 3.0 to go into full effect during the appeals process.
“Despite this decision, we will continue to fight the travel ban in court and advocate for its ultimate rejection in the halls of Congress.
“We remain committed to protecting the civil liberties of Iranian Americans and we are hopeful that the judicial system will ultimately block this unjust and discriminatory policy.”
The three organizations along with over 25 individual plaintiffs are challenging President Trump’s latest iteration of the travel and refugee bans in Federal court. The lawsuit outlines the ways the policy is hurting families, professional and business opportunities, as well as the expansive Iranian-American community.
The brief and declarations, along with other information can be found at www.endthetravelban.com.
October 10, 2017
Pars Equality Center and other organizations’ lawsuit cited in the national news
DACA Price Tag
DACA PRICE TAG: President Donald Trump released Sunday a list of measures to restrict immigration that he wants in exchange for writing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program into law, POLITICO’s Seung Min Kim reports. The White House called for the border wall; tougher penalties for asylum fraud; faster deportation of unaccompanied minors; a grant cutoff to sanctuary cities; restriction of permanent-residency sponsorship by U.S. citizens to spouses and minor children; and a merit-based points system for green cards.
To read this article, please CLICK HERE.
October 10, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Aurora Matthews
Lawsuit Argues Trump’s Latest Travel Ban Continues to Target Iranian Americans, Exacerbates Harm of Previous Travel Ban Orders
Iranian-American organizations and 13 individual plaintiffs file challenge to Travel Ban 3.0, ask for response before EO takes effect Oct 18
WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 10, 2017) – A new court filing in federal court in Washington D.C. challenging President Trump’s latest iteration of the travel ban seeks to protect Iranian Americans in the United States and abroad. The lawsuit, filed by three prominent Iranian-American organizations as well as 13 individual plaintiffs, outlines the ways the policy is hurting families, professional and business opportunities, as well as the expansive Iranian-American community.
“The latest Presidential Proclamation on vetting capabilities is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. As a permanent and more sweeping Travel Ban than its two predecessors it is even more egregious and will cause even more harm to Iranian American families and the contributions Iranian Americans make to the U.S. economy and society,” said Cyrus Mehri, founding partner of Washington, DC-based firm Mehri & Skalet, PLLC, who represents the plaintiffs. “I am very proud of our courageous individual clients and our dedicated organizational clients who continue to fight to protect the Iranian American community.”
The President’s September 24 Proclamation, among other things, indefinitely bans all immigrant and almost all nonimmigrant visas to Iranian nationals and bans all immigrant visas and many non-immigrant visas to the nationals of five other majority-Muslim nations. Based on State Department historical data, it is estimated that 60 percent of visas subject to the ban would have been issued to Iranian nationals. On October 5, the government -- citing the September 24 Proclamation -- asked that the injunctions currently in place be lifted, with no provisions to allow visas for individuals with bona fide relationships with entities or individuals in the United States. The September 24 Proclamation will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on October 18, 2017.
A motion to lift the stay along with an amended complaint detailing the unlawful harm to 13 individuals was filed in federal court before Judge Tonya S. Chutkan who in April conducted the only evidentiary hearing on Travel Ban 2.0 and who issued an order expressing concerns about the Travel Ban.
- The Complaint has compelling examples from 13 individuals. Among the plaintiffs are: Mohammed Jahanfar, whose fiancé is in Iran studying for her Master’s. Jahanfar, who served in the U.S. Navy and currently lives in California, is worried he and his fiancé will be unable to get married and live together. He says he joined the military in order to give back to his country, but never imagined the government would keep him from his loved ones.
- Reza Zoghi fled Iran with his family to escape violent persecution. He, along with his wife and three-year-old daughter, successfully completed the vetting process for resettlement, but they remain in indefinite limbo in Turkey, where he is unable to work and his daughter will be unable to enroll in school.
- Another plaintiff, who holds dual citizenship from the U.S. and Iran, is pregnant with her first child in New York City. With her husband working full time and no other close relatives nearby, her mother is trying to move from Iran to help care for her grandchild. But the process continues to be on hold.
The three organizations – Pars Equality Center, Iranian American Bar Association (IABA) and Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) – along with individual plaintiffs, now seek to lift the stay in this case and seek to enjoin Travel Ban 3.0.
Pars Equality Center, IABA and PAAIA, as well as the individual plaintiffs, filed this case on February 8 and amended it on March 15. The plaintiffs are represented by the civil rights law firm Mehri & Skalet, PLLC, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Tycko & Zavareei LLP and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, LLP.
The brief and declarations, along with other information can be found at endthetravelban.com.
June 29, 2017
Iranian American Organizations Denounce State Department Travel Ban Guidelines
Joint Statement of the Pars Equality Center, the Iranian American Bar Association (IABA), National Iranian American Council (NIAC), and the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA)
WASHINGTON, DC - As organizations representing the Iranian American community, we denounce the new guidelines for the revised Travel Ban issued by the State Department on Wednesday night.
Following the Supreme Court’s June 26th, decision to move the Travel Ban forward while exempting those who can “credibly claim a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States,” the State Department’s guidelines ban extended family including grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces and fiancées from entering the country.
Extended family is the lifeblood of all immigrant groups. This restrictive notion of family will deter people who continue to contribute to the United States and make America their home.
Iranian Americans, a community that President Trump himself has called one of the most “successful immigrant groups in our country’s contemporary history,” has been significantly and adversely impacted by the Travel Ban. Out of the six Muslim-majority countries affected by the ban, Iran alone reportedly accounts for more than half of legal entrants to the United States, many of whom visit to see their families and loved ones.
Banning grandparents from visiting their grandchildren does not make America safer. Neither does it make sense to separate fiancés who seek to be reunited to begin their lives together. The Travel Ban has already disrupted family visitation and emergency medical care for loved ones, putting lives at stake. Treating our American communities as second-class citizens is un-American at its core and does absolutely nothing to protect the United States.
The Iranian American community stands up for civil rights and liberties, and we will remain vigilant in responding to measures that unfairly target our community. All four organizations along with individual plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in Federal court in Washington, D.C. to stop the travel ban and its negative impacts on the immigrant population in the United States – “Pars Equality v. Donald J. Trump et al.” For more information, go to endthetravelban.com.
June 29, 2017
The U.S. Supreme Court Allows Implementation of Parts of the Executive Order/Travel and Refugee Ban
On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari and consolidated two key cases in the travel and refugee ban litigation: Trump v. IRAP and Trump v. Hawaii. The case will be heard during the first session of the October 2017 term.
In addition to granting certiorari, the Supreme Court granted a partial stay of the injunctions that had been preventing implementation of the travel ban [Section 2(c)], the refugee ban [Section 6(a)], and the refugee cap [Section 6(b)].
It likely will not be clear until the case is heard by the Court in October when the government’s self-imposed time frame for reviewing the vetting procedures began, expired or was arguably tolled.
The Court ruled as follows:
• Travel and Refugee Ban: The Court left in place the injunctions with respect to the plaintiffs in both cases and others in similar situations. It explained that, “[i]n practical terms, this means that [the travel and refugee bans] may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” (emphasis added). However, all other foreign nationals are subject to the EO.
• Refugee Cap: The Court held that a refugee with a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a U.S. person or entity may not be excluded, even if the 50,000 cap on refugees has been reached or exceeded.
- Bona Fide Relationship with a Person in the United States: The Court noted that the facts of the cases at hand illustrate the type of relationships that would qualify as bona fide, stating, “For individuals, a close familial relationship is required.” The Court stated that an individual who seeks to enter the United States to live with or visit a family member, such as a spouse or mother- in-law, “clearly has such a relationship.”
- Bona Fide Relationship with an Entity in the United States: With regard to entities, the Court stated, “the relationship must be formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading EO-2.” The Court specifically stated that students who have been admitted to a U.S. university, a worker who has accepted an offer of employment from a U.S. company, or a lecturer invited to address a U.S. audience would have such a relationship. The Court stated that a relationship with a U.S. entity or individual that was entered into for the purpose of avoiding the travel ban will not be recognized as bona fide.
It appears the government will implement the permitted parts of the ban within 72 hours of the Court ruling.
DHS states that implementation “will be done professionally, with clear and sufficient public notice, particularly to potentially affected travelers, and in coordination with partners in the travel industry.”
On Wednesday, June 28, a cable from the Department of State was issued to embassies and consulates providing guidance in response to the Supreme Court decision. The following individuals will be excluded from the travel ban:
- U.S. citizens
- Green card holders (LPRs)
- Current visa holders
- Any visa applicant who was in the U.S. as of June 26
- Dual nationals
- Anyone granted asylum
- Any refugee already admitted to the U.S
- Foreign nationals with a “bona fide” family, educational, or employment/business tie to the U.S. What qualifies as a “bona fide” familial relationship:
- Adult son or daughter
- Son-in-law, daughter-in-law
***The cable indicates the following relationships do NOT constitute a “bona fide” familial relationship: grandparent, fiancée, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, cousin, brother-inlaw/sister-in-law, or other “extended family.”
*The same criteria apply to refugees awaiting approval for admission
*Visas that have already been approved will not be revoked (it has been confirmed the EO will not affect persons who arrive at ports of entry with legitimate travel documents)
*The EO also permits the issuance of a visa to anyone who would otherwise be excluded on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of DHS and Dept. of State.
April 5, 2017
Pars Equality Center joins a coalition of Iranian American Organizations on a statement about the detention of Iranians by U.S. authorities
Washington, DC – As organizations that represent the Iranian-American community, we are deeply concerned by recent arrests of Iranians visiting and studying in the United States.
At least two Iranians are currently being held in custody by U.S. immigration authorities: Alia Ghandi and Mohammad Salar Fard-Hajian. We implore authorities to ensure these individuals have ready access to legal counsel and insist they be promptly released from custody.
Ghandi, who traveled to Oregon on a valid tourist visa to visit her sister (a U.S. citizen), was refused entry by customs officers and instead arrested and sent to the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center in Washington. Ghandi has subsequently claimed asylum but remains in custody despite an obligation by U.S. authorities to allow her the opportunity to present her case and remain in the U.S. until she is heard.
Mohammad Salar Fard-Hajian, an Iranian student living in Dearborn, Michigan, was arrested at home and is being held in Calhoun County Jail in Battle Creek, Michigan. Fard-Hajian’s roommate believes he was arrested due to administrative errors regarding his college enrollment status.
It is impossible for us to simply write-off all of these events as mere coincidence or misunderstanding in the current climate. The recent spate of official policies and actions – beginning with President Trump’s first executive order to bar entry for Iranians and nationals of six other countries – are deeply troubling. Coupled with recent incidents of hate directed at Iranians and persons of Middle Eastern descent, including recent reports of graffiti targeting Iranians in Portland and San Francisco, a disturbing trend is emerging.
As members of the Iranian-American community, we are active contributors to society who – like all other Americans – are entitled to live in peace and without fear of discrimination. As members of the Iranian diaspora, we are proud of our heritage and have deep connections to our ancestral homeland. We are committed to proactively engaging to protect the interests of our community and the values of this country. We encourage community leaders, lawmakers, as well as the President to take these concerns seriously so that everyone’s rights are protected.
Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB)
Iranian American Bar Association (IABA)
National Iranian American Council (NIAC)
Pars Equality Center
Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA)
March 15, 2017
IRANIAN-AMERICAN ORGS FILE FEDERAL COURT CHALLENGE TO TRUMP TRAVEL BAN 2.0
Complaint Outlines Devastating Impact of Travel Ban on Iranian-American Families
Washington, DC—Four prominent Iranian-American organizations renewed their challenge to the Trump Administration’s illegal and unconstitutional policies, filing papers to take on the President’s revised “Travel Ban” Executive Order. The organizations, joined by over 20 individual plaintiffs, have updated their existing lawsuit against the January 27th Travel Ban Executive Order, Pars Equality, et al v. Trump, to take on the March 6th version.
“From separating families to disrupting the education of college and law students to harming our small businesses, the Trump Administration’s revised travel ban creates irreparable harm for Iranian-American families,” said Cyrus Mehri, Iranian-American civil rights lawyer and founding partner of Washington, DC-based firm Mehri & Skalet, PLLC, who represents the plaintiffs. “We hope our lawsuit shows that the capricious nature of the Travel Ban and its destructive impact on the Iranian-American community undercuts democracy at home and abroad and makes America less safe.”
The plaintiffs-- Pars Equality Center, Iranian American Bar Association, National Iranian American Council, and Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans-- have amended their February 8th complaint and asked the District of Columbia federal court to enjoin the Trump Administration’s March 6 Executive Order restricting travel to and from the United States and Iran and five other predominantly Muslim nations. The latest filing includes approximately 25 declarations, which provide a unique and compelling factual record on the ongoing harm to the Iranian-American community as a result of this discriminatory policy since its enactment on January 27th.
The declarations which will be filed today show how the Trump Travel Bans have caused irreparable injury to the Iranian-American community continuously from January 27 to date through actions including:
Wreaking havoc on Iranian American families: The declarations include accounts of wedding plans being disrupted, of families being forced to disconnect from each other, and medical conditions worsened by the Travel Ban.
Disrupting the Academic, Research and Student Communities: The declarations highlight disruption to college, graduate and law students of Iranian descent - which not only stymie their own education but erode their academic, research and other contributions to U.S. universities.
Weakening U.S. Businesses and U.S. Economy: The Iranian-American community has contributed mightily to U.S. businesses, technology and innovation. The declarations provide examples of immediate harm to U.S. business interests and individuals of Iranian descent who have strengthened the U.S. economy but are now sidetracked by the Travel Bans.
Harm to Refugees: The declarations show examples of harm to refugee applicants seeking safety for themselves and their families.
Harm to U.S. Democracy: The capricious nature of the Travel Ban and its destructive impact on the Iranian-American community undercuts democracy at home and abroad and makes America less safe.
The declarations bring to life the discrimination and hurtful stigma caused by the Travel Bans. The relief sought in Pars Equality goes beyond the preliminary injunction achieved by Washington State.
In addition to Mehri, Pars Equality is prosecuted by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and pro bono counsel, Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer (“APKS”).
The Iranian-American community has been significantly and adversely impacted by the travel ban. Among the six nations singled out by the Travel Ban, Iran had the largest total number of legal entrants into the U.S. (310,182) between 2006 and 2015; two-thirds of those entrants arrived in the United States on temporary visas.
To learn more about the lawsuit or to add your name, visit endthetavelban.com.
February 28, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: hristy Setzer, firstname.lastname@example.org or Aurora Matthews, email@example.com, 301-221-7984
Iranian-American Orgs on Rise in Hate Crimes: Time for Leaders to Condemn These Incidents
WASHINGTON, DC – Today four Iranian American organizations released the following statement following a series of violent incidents that have recently taken place with the intention to target Americans of Iranian descent.
- In the Kansas bar shooting last week that took the life of one man of Indian descent and seriously injured two others, the assailant has allegedly declared his intention to shoot “Iranians.” He had reportedly told the two Indian men he was targeting, who he thought were Iranian, “Get out of my country,” before he opened fire.
- In another incident, an Iranian American woman reported vandalism outside her San Francisco apartment in the form of spray painted swastikas and reference to the infamous Nazi doctor, Mengele, known as the “Angel of death."
- These and other incidents are part of a larger pattern of recent hate crimes against actual or perceived Muslims in the U.S., such as “obscene and hateful graffiti” on the outside walls of an Islamic Center (the Tarbiya Institute) in Roseville, California; or a fire set to a mosque in Victoria, Texas.
“As Iranian American organizations, we have been sounding the alarm on the divisive rhetoric against immigrants, spurred by the harmful and discriminatory effects of the Trump Administration’s Executive Order banning nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries – including Iran – from entering the United States.
“We are deeply disturbed by a series of violent incidents that have recently taken place with the intention to target Americans of Iranian descent. These types of crimes do not target individuals but entire communities and our core national values. When violence and xenophobia is accepted, and encouraged, in the name of national security, it should be no surprise that some people will go out and express their views violently.
“We call on all elected officials and law enforcement personnel at all levels of government to ensure that the civil rights and civil liberties of all Americans, including Iranian Americans, are fully protected. We encourage Iranian Americans to share their experiences with local, State, and Federal elected officials as well as others in their community to end stereotypes, correct misconceptions, and convey instances of abuse. “All four of our organizations have filed a lawsuit in Federal court in Washington, D.C. to stop the travel ban and its negative impacts on the immigrant population in the United States – “Pars Equality v. Donald J. Trump et al.” For more information, go to endthetravelban.com