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Federal Judge Refuses to Dismiss Class Action Against Trump Administration for Travel Ban

A federal judge recently declined to dismiss a class action accusing the Trump administration of exploiting a sham waiver process to deny entry to all waiver-eligible immigrants from the five Muslim-majority countries under the administration’s travel ban.

Members of the class action suit claimed that they had faced troubles with their waiver requests, what with officials at the State Department refusing to recognize the documents they present to support their requests. Other plaintiffs claimed that they were completely prohibited from applying for a waiver, a discretion reserved only for visa interviews. Members of the class consist of a total of 36 immigrants or relatives of immigrants from countries covered by the Trump travel ban namely Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.

The class brought their case against the Trump administration in March 2018, claiming that the government has intentionally deviated from established guidelines and procedures mandated by law when reviewing travel ban waiver requests.

Their proof? The statement of a former consular officer who claimed that they “were not allowed to exercise that discretion” and that “there really is no waiver.” A more damning piece of evidence was an uncovered sample waiver letter with a pre-checked “denied” box.

U.S. District Judge James Donato considered these facts in his 19-page ruling, ultimately deciding to go through with the case. “Plaintiffs allege facts plausibly demonstrating that a de facto policy of blanket denials has usurped individualized waiver decisions,” he explained.

The plaintiffs lauded the judge’s decision to hear their case.

“We are encouraged by the court’s decision today allowing some of our claims against the government to move forward,” said Sirine Shebaya, an attorney from the Muslim Advocates in Washington. “The court rightly found that we have alleged enough to show that the government is not following its own policies and procedures.”

As per a report dated late February 2018, out of 8,406 requests, only two were granted, eventually growing to 768 by May of the same year.  This summary and blanket denial of waivers has separated terminally ill parents from their children, stopped foreign scientists from contributing to ongoing research at U.S. universities, and blocked foreign investors who have put amounts of $500,000 or more into U.S. businesses, according to the complaint.

Shebaya is determined to see the case all the way through, with the ultimate end of ensuring that the government carries out its administration of travel ban waivers in a just manner.

“When the government holds itself out as providing a waiver process, it has to keep that promise, and we will continue to fight to ensure that families and individuals covered by the ban are not cheated out of their one shot at being reunited with their families and loved ones,” Shebaya stressed.

For more immigration news and updates on the travel ban, be sure to follow this blog. If you, or a loved one, are affected by this latest ruling and want to know what your options are, schedule a consultation with the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today to learn more about how Austin immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle can help you.

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