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IRAP Lawsuit Calls on U.S. Government to Reunite Sri Lankan Refugee Family

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                     

June 2, 2022


Spencer Tilger


Plaintiff: “It pains me to think about how many moments I have missed without them by my side.”

(Greenbelt, MD) – Today, the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee living in Texas who has been waiting to reunite with his wife and children in the United States via the “follow-to-join” (FTJ) program. Part of the Refugee Act of 1980, the FTJ statute allows spouses and unmarried children of refugees to join their family members who have been resettled in the United States.

The lawsuit alleges U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has failed to adjudicate the FTJ petitions of plaintiff Jayarajah Antony Rajeevan Kulas within a reasonable time, leaving his wife and children stuck overseas in the dangerous conditions Mr. Kulas fled nearly a decade ago. The FTJ process was built into the U.S. refugee system to address the problem of family separation, yet growing delays in the program have kept families separated – defeating the purpose of the program. This lawsuit holds these delays to be unreasonable and seeks to promptly reunite the Kulas family.

“My only hope is for my family to join me,” said plaintiff Jayarajah Antony Rajeevan Kulas. “It has been eight years since we have been together. I worry constantly for their safety and it pains me to think about how many moments I have missed without them by my side.”

Mr. Kulas fled his home in Sri Lanka to escape multiple attempts by the Sri Lankan army to kidnap, torture, and murder him, and was safely resettled as a refugee in the United States in 2018. He filed FTJ petitions for his family with USCIS in July 2020, as soon as he learned he was eligible to do so. His wife and two children remain in grave danger in Sri Lanka, and he has never been able to meet his youngest son as a result of his family’s eight year separation.

“The Kulas family has suffered immensely during their journey to safety and it is unconscionable for the U.S. government to delay their reunification any longer,” said Ary Hansen, Nierenberg Fellow in IRAP’s Litigation Department. “The U.S. government should act immediately to ensure administrative delays do not keep families separated. Every day that passes is another day Mr. Kulas’s wife and children live in danger.”

In March, IRAP filed a separate lawsuit on behalf of Afkab Hussein, a Somali refugee whose reunification with his family continues to be delayed. That lawsuit also challenges the government’s unreasonable delays (six years and counting) in processing the family’s FTJ petition.

Additional Information

Read today’s filing: HERE

Read about IRAP’s lawsuit on behalf of Afkab and his family: HERE

Read IRAP’s data and analysis:Families in Limbo: What the Biden Administration Can Do Now to Address Unreasonable Delays in Refugee and Asylee Family Reunification

Learn more about IRAP’s Family Reunification efforts: HERE

The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) develops and enforces a set of legal and human rights for refugees and displaced persons. Mobilizing direct legal aid, litigation, and systemic advocacy, IRAP serves the world’s most persecuted individuals and empowers the next generation of human rights leaders.