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, email@example.com or Aurora Matthews, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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