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Court Allows Class Action Challenge to Delays in Special Immigrant Visa Program for Afghan and Iraqi Allies to Continue

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

January 30, 2019

PRESS CONTACT

Henrike Dessaules

516-838-1269

hdessaules@refugeerights.org


COURT ALLOWS CLASS ACTION CHALLENGE TO DELAYS IN SPECIAL IMMIGRANT VISA PROGRAM FOR AFGHAN AND IRAQI ALLIES TO CONTINUE

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, a federal judge denied the government’s motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit challenging the egregious processing delays experienced by Special Immigrant Visa applicants. The Special Immigrant Visa program was passed by Congress to allow local allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, who are threatened by anti-U.S. forces due to their work with the U.S. government, to safely and expeditiously resettle to the United States.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Afghan and Iraqi individuals who have supported the U.S. missions in their home countries. Each of them has been waiting between 21 months and five years for a decision in their case, even though their work puts them in immediate danger. Many of them live in hiding and have been separated from their families for years.

This stands in contradiction to Congress’ 2013 mandate that SIV applicants should receive a decision within nine months of submitting their application. In their motion to dismiss the lawsuit, the government had claimed that plaintiffs could not challenge their delays in court, a claim the court rejected. The court also granted plaintiffs’ motion for expedited discovery and provisionally certified the proposed class.

Plaintiffs are seeking prompt government action on their applications so that they don’t have to remain in dangerous circumstances for longer than necessary. As a class action, the lawsuit could bring relief to other Afghans and Iraqis in similar circumstances.

Plaintiffs are being represented by the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) and Freshfields.

Deepa Alagesan, Staff Attorney in IRAP’s Litigation Department, said: “This ruling is an important first step to ensure that America keeps its promise to these brave men and women who risk their lives every day for having served our missions abroad.”

The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The oral argument on the pending preliminary injunction motion is set for May 3, 2019, at 10am.

To view the press release, click here.

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