ACLU, National Immigration Law Center sue US State Department over travel ban

Bruno Cirelli
Agosto 6, 2017

Civil rights groups are suing the State Department for refusing to process visa applications for winners of a federal visa lottery program that are from the six countries included in the president's travel ban.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the National Immigration Law Center filed the lawsuit on Friday in the US District Court in Washington DC, on behalf of Iranians and Yemenis who won in the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, also known as the green card lottery.

The groups claim Tillerson issued an illegal policy when he directed consular officials to deny visas to lottery winners following the Supreme Court's decision in June, which reinstated Trump's ban on nationals from Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya from entering the USA unless the individual has a "bona fide relationship" with a person or entity in the U.S.

"This isn't right, fair or lawful, and we are willing to do what it takes - including going to court - to fight for the rights of our clients", said Ms Esther Sung, an attorney at the National Immigration Law Centre, one of the organisations representing the winners.

The groups claim Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued an illegal policy when he directed consular officials to deny visas to lottery winners because Trump's order bans entry into the USA, not visa issuance.

"Nor is the issuance of a visa during a temporary suspension of entry pointless, as the visa could be used to enter the United States once the temporary suspension on entry is lifted".

Trump's order imposes a 90-day travel ban on people from Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan who want to enter the US.

The "diversity visa" programme, which attracts about 14 million applicants each year, was passed in its current form by Congress in 1990 to provide a path to USA residency for citizens from a range of countries with historically low rates of immigration to the US. The winners are randomly selected provided they satisfy the eligibility requirements and qualify under the government's general rules for a visa.

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