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Refugee Mother Stranded in Iraq Sues Government to Return to Safety in United States with Children

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                     

March 14, 2024


Spencer Tilger,


(Greenbelt, MD) – Last night, Jane Doe, a refugee mother stranded in Iraq, requested a federal court allow her to return to safety in the United States with her children. By unlawfully preventing her from returning to the United States, the U.S. government is forcing Doe to choose between sending her children back to the United States by themselves, or staying in Iraq where the entire family faces threats. Doe’s name has been withheld for her safety. The lawsuit was filed by the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) and Holwell Shuster & Goldberg.

“Every day, I worry that my children and I will be harmed if we stay in Iraq,” said Jane Doe. “We are not able to live normal lives due to threats from militias, and I wish we were back in the United States where we will be safe. This is no way to live.”

In Iraq, Doe and her family face threats from the same Shiite militants who murdered her father due to his work as a translator for the United States. In 2016, the United States resettled Doe as a refugee along with her two children, but deferred her husband’s decision. Shortly after Doe resettled in Virginia, she learned that her husband’s refugee application was denied. Around the same time, he received a bullet in the mail – the same kind of threat her father received before his murder. Fearing for his safety, Doe returned to Iraq so her children could see their father for what she thought might be the last time. Once there, she applied for travel documents to return to the United States. After waiting years for a response, the U.S. government approved her children’s applications but unjustly denied Doe’s, placing the family in an impossible situation.

As a resettled refugee, Doe should be allowed to re-enter the United States under her refugee status without a travel document, but the U.S. government refuses to let her return to safety with her children. Her family has now been stranded in Iraq for more than five years due to these unlawful refugee travel document policies. If her children’s travel documents expire in May 2024, they will be left with no way to resume their still-valid refugee status in the United States.

“It is not uncommon for refugees to need to travel abroad during the first years of resettlement. The wait time to process applications for travel documents continues to grow, meaning families often aren’t able to get their applications approved before their travel date, or may apply from abroad. Moreover, they shouldn’t be required to have refugee travel documents to return,” said Kate Meyer, IRAP Litigation Staff Attorney. “The United States government is unnecessarily keeping a refugee family in danger. Jane Doe retains her refugee status in the United States and should be allowed to return to safety with her children. The Court should enjoin this unlawful policy immediately.”

Additional Information

  • Read the motion for a preliminary injunction: HERE
  • Read the complaint: HERE
  • Learn more about the case: 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.