“Activists protest on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the Trump administration’s restriction of travel to the U.S. from predominantly Muslin countries, on Capitol Hill June 26, 2019 in Washington, DC.” (Attribution: Getty Images)
While President Joe Biden on day one of his administration rescinded the previous administration’s discriminatory Muslim ban, affected individuals have still been fighting against the policy in court due to ongoing harms like family separation.
They won a momentous victory in court this week when the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a ruling ordering the Biden administration to create a new process for Muslim ban victims to have stalled or rejected visa applications reconsidered. Legal advocates said the decision could potentially benefit thousands.
“We are thrilled that the court heard the pleas of our plaintiffs and saw through the government’s attempts to brush aside the very real harms inflicted by the Muslim Ban, which continues even after its rescission,” said Lofti Legal attorney Shabnam Lofti. “While our plaintiffs have still not been made whole, this is a step in the right direction. We are hopeful that these families will finally be reunited.”
“The ruling is the result of consolidated lawsuits: Emami v. Blinken, filed on behalf of a group of Muslim Ban victims by Muslim Advocates, Lofti Legal LLC and Perkins Coie LLP, and a parallel case, Pars Equality Center v. Blinken,” a statement said.
It will hopefully mean reunification for Omer Mohamed, a Sudanese electrical engineer who won a diversity visa in 2019. His mother sold her heirloom jewelry to raise the $300 he needed for his interview fee, but he had his visa rejected “solely because of the discriminatory Muslim and African ban,” wrote Haddy Gassama, national director of policy and advocacy for the UndocuBlack Network.
“Ramin Raghifar of Iran is another example of a life in limbo,” she continued. “He won the diversity visa after 15 years of applying. Ramin had always dreamed of traveling to the U.S. to practice medicine and advance his research in dermatology and radiology,” and was even set to delay his marriage in order realize his American dream. “His visa, too, was denied due to the ban.”
The Biden administration’s termination of the Muslim ban was widely welcomed, but did nothing to alleviate the suffering of victims who’d already been affected by its cruel provisions. The Biden administration had “falsely argued in court that the recision of the Muslim Ban negated their claims,” Muslim Advocates said. “The judge also mandated that the government must work with the Muslim Ban victims to create a process to have their visa applications reconsidered without having to spend considerable time and money starting the process all over again,” the organization continued.
“Rescinding the Muslim Ban was just step one,” said Muslim Advocates Legal Fellow Chris Godshall-Bennett. “The judge’s ruling now requires the Biden administration to finish what it started and create a real pathway to reuniting the thousands of families who were illegally and cruelly separated by the ban.”
House Democrats last year passed legislation preventing a future racist authoritarian from again enacting such a policy. Just one House Republican, Pennsylvania’s Brian Fitzpatrick, joined them in passing the bill. Notably, Republicans invited a member of an anti-immigrant hate group as their policy “expert” to testify in a hearing on the bill. No Republicans at all joined to support a second bill ensuring that citizens, legal residents, and travelers with legal status can speak to an attorney if they’re detained by border officials. Neither bill has advanced to the U.S. Senate.
The No Ban Act was also included in the Biden administration’s proposed immigration overhaul, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. That bill has failed to advance, period.