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“President Biden Removed the Muslim Ban but He Didn’t Fix the Harm”: IRAP Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Separated Somali Refugee Family

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                     

April 7, 2022


Spencer Tilger


More than 75 advocacy organizations call on Biden administration to do more to undo Muslim ban’s effect on refugees

(Madison, WI) – Today, the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Mohamuds, a Somali refugee family waiting to reunite in the United States, and sent an open letter signed by more than 75 partner organizations calling on the Biden administration to do more to undo the legacy of the Muslim refugee ban. 

Plaintiff Anisa Mohamud’s mother and younger brother were on a flight to join her and her sister in the U.S. when the Trump administration issued the Muslim refugee ban in October 2017. After being turned back during a layover, the family waited for the ban to be rescinded. However, months after the Biden administration repealed the ban in 2021, U.S. officials rejected the Mohamuds without any meaningful explanation. This lawsuit challenges that denial and the policies that led to it as unfair and discriminatory and seeks to reopen the family’s case. The law firm of Perkins Coie LLP is co-counsel in the lawsuit.

Additionally, today U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan and Ilhan Omar led a letter signed by 26 members of Congress asking Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, and Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ur M. Jaddou to review and remedy the continued effects of the Muslim ban on refugee resettlement.

Plaintiff Anisa Mohamud said: 

“My sister and I both work two jobs to care for our mother and little brother so one day they can come to the U.S. and we can be together after an extremely long separation. The Muslim ban took away four years that I could have spent with my mother and cared for her. And now after nearly ten years of waiting my family’s case has been denied unjustly and without any reason. President Biden removed the Muslim ban but he didn’t fix the harm that ban caused to people like us. All we want is to be reunited and be together with our family.”

IRAP Litigation Director, Mariko Hirose, said: 

“The Muslim ban never ended for many refugee families. The racism of the Trump administration lives on through inexplicable denials and delays that keep Black and Brown families apart. IRAP is filing these lawsuits to ensure that Trump’s Muslim bans are revoked completely, both in name and in practice.”

Last month, IRAP filed a separate lawsuit on behalf of Afkab Hussein, another Somali refugee whose reunification with his family continues to be delayed by the Biden administration. Both families are beneficiaries of a settlement in Jewish Family Service of Seattle v. Trump, an IRAP-led lawsuit challenging the Muslim refugee ban. Under the terms of the JFS v. Trump settlement, the U.S. government is required to expedite the processing of these cases, but previously released data shows that only a small fraction of affected refugees who were already cleared for resettlement when the ban was issued have actually arrived in the U.S. since the settlement was reached two years ago. And more than half of that group, including Anisa Mohamud’s mother and brother, have had their applications denied after they were previously cleared to travel. 

Together, both lawsuits highlight the reality that despite President Biden officially rescinding the Muslim ban, its legacy continues to keep many Muslim and Black refugee families from reuniting in the United States. 

Additional Information

  • Read the filing: HERE
  • Read the letter from IRAP and 78 partner organizations: HERE
  • Read the Congressional letter led by Representatives Pocan and Omar: HERE
  • Read about IRAP’s previous lawsuit on behalf of Afkab and his family: 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.