Meet the Plaintiffs in Emami v Nielsen

On July 29, 2018, Muslim Advocates, Lotfi Legal, LLC, the Immigrant Advocacy & Litigation Center, PLLC, and Public Counsel filed an amended complaint in a class action lawsuit on behalf of 36 plaintiffs – American citizens, lawful permanent residents, and Iranian, Libyan, Somali, Syrian, and Yemeni foreign nationals – whose visa applications were wrongfully denied or stalled by the government’s failure to provide fair and meaningful access to waivers from the Muslim Ban.

The plaintiffs come from all walks of life and have had waivers denied or stalled despite chronic and potentially fatal medical conditions, lengthy family separations, or extraordinary talents that would contribute greatly to the United States in fields like medicine, science, and music.

Below are some of their stories.

Americans Forced into Exile or Single Parenthood Because of a Banned Spouse

Ismail, an American who is stranded in Djibouti with his Yemeni wife and newborn son because the United States denied his wife’s visa application due to the ban.

Ismail currently resides in Djibouti in order to be with his Yemeni wife, who has been unable to come to the United States because of the ban. He petitioned for a family-based immigrant visa for her in 2016 and was approved a few months later for an interview scheduled for 2018. She attended her interview and was informed immediately that her visa was denied and that she would not even be considered for a waiver. Now, Ismail, who left his job in the U.S. to be with his pregnant wife, is left with little recourse – for himself, his wife, or their recently-born child. They are stuck in Djibouti in very difficult circumstances and have no safe place they can go.

Abdurraouf, a Libyan-American whose pregnant wife is stuck in war-torn Libya.They are awaiting adjudication of her waiver request, and he is forced to travel back and forth constantly in order to be with her during her pregnancy.  

Abdurraouf lives in Texas where he petitioned for a family-based immigrant visa petition for his wife, who is currently in Libya and 6 months pregnant with their first child. Upon having her petition approved, Abdurraouf’s wife attended her interview and was told that her eligibility for a waiver would be considered but that it would take several months to obtain a response – several months that will likely include the hardest months of her pregnancy and the birth of their child. Abdurraouf quit a stable and well-paying job in the United States and now works as a cab driver in order to have the flexibility to travel back and forth to Libya, a country that has been ravaged by violence and war because he cannot bear to leave his wife alone, especially while she is pregnant with their baby. He cannot wait for the time when he can bring her home, and they can live together and raise their child in the United States.

Sudi, a Somalian-American who is having to raise her child on her own because of the Muslim Ban. Her husband has been awaiting a response on his visa and waiver application since February. Her husband was unable to be a part of the birth of their child, and to this day, he has never met his child.

Sudi petitioned for a family-based immigrant visa for her husband, a Somali national living outside of Somalia, in October 2016. Her petition was approved the following March, and her husband was interviewed twice in 2018. Each time, he was not provided a final answer on his application. While waiting to hear back, Sudi gave birth to their son, alone and without her husband’s support. Her husband has yet to meet their child because he is unable to come to the United States and she cannot afford to travel to see him while they are maintaining two separate households. She also cannot leave her job for long periods of time. Their financial situation compelled Sudi to go back to work immediately after having her baby, who is frequently sick and has been to the emergency room four times in the last few months. She was forced to spend Eid on her own, without her husband, and feels targeted because of her religion and national origin.

Separated Families with Chronic or Potentially Fatal Medical Conditions

Bamshad, a lawful permanent resident – whose Iranian parents are recovering from cancer and surgery – may live the rest of their lives without being able to visit their family in the United States.

Bamshad’s ailing parents, who are recovering from cancer and recent surgery respectively, wanted nothing more than to spend time with their family members in the United States as they continue to recover. They applied for visitor visas and attended their interview at the U.S. consulate. They were told that their visas would be ready in two weeks. Twelve days later, the Muslim Ban was signed, and their passports were returned without the promised visas. Their application has since been formally rejected. They continue to be weakened by their surgeries and medical conditions, and they and Bamshad are distressed at their inability to spend time with each other during what may be the final years of their lives.

Maral, an Iranian-American who is being denied the help and support of her Iranian parents as she raises a newborn and works a full-time job, all while suffering from a chronic and painful medical condition.

When Maral was pregnant, her parents, who have traveled to the United States many times in the past, applied for tourist visas to witness the birth of their first grandchild. Her father’s application was held up in administrative processing, and while they waited for that process to be completed, the Muslim Ban was approved by the Supreme Court, and both their visas were refused. This left Maral without the support she needed while she was pregnant or the childcare that would have been provided by her parents, making it impossible for her to return to work as quickly as she had hoped. The challenges posed by her parents’ absence are exacerbated by a connective tissue disorder that makes daily tasks incredibly painful and that have slowed down Maral’s recovery. Her parents will also never be able to meet her father-in-law, who died while they were waiting to come visit them in the United States.

People with Extraordinary Abilities and Talents Who Could Contribute to the US in the Fields of Health, Science and Music

Mohamad, a world-class Syrian violinist, composer, and conductor, and an artist of extraordinary ability in the field of Arabic fusion music who is now banned from the United States.

Mohamad is renowned internationally for his groundbreaking and unique cross-cultural fusions of Arabic music with musical genres from around the globe. Mohamad is a conductor and soloist with a one-of-a-kind Western-style ensemble of international symphony musicians playing traditional Arabic music. Due to his unparalleled talent and passion for Arabic fusion music, Mohamad has collaborated with top producers, composers, and musicians from around the globe. After the ban went into effect, his attorneys attempted to request a waiver for him but were denied summarily. Mohamad is losing the opportunity to work with the world’s best violinists and orchestras and to contribute his prodigious talent and unique musical abilities to the artistic community in the United States.

Najmeh, an Iranian health researcher whose research was deemed to be in the national interest by the United States government and who was denied a visa because of the Muslim Ban.

Najmeh is a health researcher whose application for an employment-based waiver was approved, moving her forward to the interview.  She was told that there were no problems with her case but that she would have to undergo routine administrative processing. But after the ban went into effect, Najmeh received a notice denying her visa application. Najmeh is losing the opportunity to conduct research in the United States, despite the fact that the government had already deemed her research to be of U.S. national interest.

Families Permanently Separated and Stranded in War Torn Countries

Najib, a successful American dentist whose mother is stranded in war-torn Syria.

Najib is a U.S. citizen who owns a highly successful small business in Virginia. He employs close to 20 people and provides services to well over 4000 people. Unfortunately, since war broke out in Syria in 2011, Najib has been unable to visit his family back home. His father died in 2014, and he was not able to say goodbye or to attend his funeral. He wishes to bring his widowed mother from Damascus so that she can spend her golden years with him, his wife, and his two children, and so that they can take care of her as she grows older. After his petition was approved, Najib traveled to Jordan and went with his mother to her interview, hoping to bring her back to the U.S. immediately afterward. But the consular official told Najib and his mother that because of the ban, he was unable to grant her a visa, but that she would be considered for a waiver. It’s been seven months since that conversation, and despite his frequent inquiries, they have yet to receive any response.