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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Federal Judge approves settlement for visas denied under Trump’s travel ban

The travel ban had profound effects on many families and individuals, disrupting lives and separating loved ones.

Nearly 25,000 individuals who were denied U.S. visas under former President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban can now reapply for free, following a landmark settlement approved by U.S. District Judge James Donato. The agreement is seen as a significant step toward addressing the lingering impacts of the 2017 policy, which targeted several Muslim-majority countries and others deemed security risks by the Trump administration.

Historical Context of the Travel Ban

In 2017, President Trump issued an executive order that barred entry into the United States for nationals from countries including Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, as well as North Korea and Venezuela. The policy, often referred to as the “Muslim Ban,” was met with widespread condemnation and legal challenges. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually upheld the ban in 2018, stating that it was within the president’s authority to act in the interest of national security. However, critics argued that the policy was discriminatory and rooted in anti-Muslim sentiment.

Read More: Trump to reintroduce Muslim travel ban if re-elected

Impact on Affected Communities

The travel ban had profound effects on many families and individuals, disrupting lives and separating loved ones. Maral Tabrizi, a plaintiff in the case, highlighted the personal toll of the ban. “My family should have had its visas considered more than six years ago, but we’re living in limbo because the State Department refused to make things right,” Tabrizi said. Her daughter, who turned six in February, has never met her grandparents due to the visa denials. The financial burden of reapplying for visas from scratch was another significant concern for families like Tabrizi’s.

Path to Settlement

Despite President Joe Biden’s repeal of the travel ban on his first day in office, the effects of the policy persisted. Communities affected by the ban continued to push for redress through the courts. In 2023, the Biden administration’s Justice Department initially agreed to a settlement to address these concerns but later backtracked, prompting further legal action. Judge Donato, who consolidated the cases of Emami v. Nielsen and Pars Equality Center v. Blinken, criticized the government’s handling of the issue, describing it as “careless and obstructive.”

Details of the Settlement

The final settlement approved by Judge Donato mandates that the U.S. government notify eligible individuals of their ability to reapply for visas without fees. Additionally, applicants can request priority status for consular interviews. The government is also required to provide periodic reports to the court on the resolution of disputes, the number of fee waivers claimed, and the number of visas issued or refused under the agreement.

Community Response and Future Implications

Advocacy groups and legal organizations involved in the case hailed the settlement as a significant victory. Zahra Billoo, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) San Francisco Bay Area and co-chair of the No Muslim Ban Ever coalition, emphasized the importance of this legal triumph. “Our class action victory was achieved through the relentless and fearless advocacy of community members harmed by the Muslim Ban,” Billoo said. She highlighted the ongoing efforts to ensure that such discriminatory policies do not recur.

Read More: UNSC divided over travel ban on Taliban

As the settlement takes effect, organizations such as the No Muslim Ban Ever coalition will work to inform and assist eligible individuals in reapplying for their visas. The case underscores the long-lasting impact of immigration policies and the importance of continued vigilance to protect the rights and opportunities of all individuals, regardless of their national origin or religion.