Visa Applicants Denied Under the Muslim Ban File for Classwide Relief

Federal Judge Calls U.S. State Department’s Handling of the Lawsuit a “Theater of the Absurd”

Washington, DC — After more than five years of court battles and failed settlement attempts, the federal government continues to refuse to provide relief to people who were wrongfully denied visas under former President Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban. In response, the community members and families harmed by the ban filed a motion on June 15 for class certification—a key step to be recognized as a class eligible for relief—in lawsuits against the U.S. State Department.

Thousands of people were never given a fair chance at a visa and have subsequently been denied family reunification, jobs and educational opportunities. Restarting the visa application process from scratch would generate significant personal expense, including, for some, the need for international travel. Many applicants would be unable to secure an interview appointment for years because of embassy backlogs.

Last month, a federal judge ordered the government back to court to explain why they have yet to create a fair, efficient visa reconsideration process, calling the government’s handling of the lawsuits a “theater of the absurd” in court.

Settlement talks came after the court ruled against the government last summer as a result of related lawsuits: Emami v. Mayorkas, filed on behalf of a group of Muslim Ban victims by Muslim Advocates, Lofti Legal LLC and Perkins Coie LLP, and a parallel case, Pars Equality Center v. Blinken, being litigated by the Iranian American Bar Association, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, the National Immigration Law Center and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer. 

In last summer’s ruling, the court ordered the government to work with the plaintiffs to create a process to have their stalled or rejected visa applications reconsidered without starting from scratch. The government has since reneged on agreements made in court to create a fair, effective and transparent process. 

The Muslim Ban affected more than 41,000 people who otherwise would have been approved for their visas. The proposed class would include nationals of Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen who were denied under the ban between December 8, 2017, and January 20, 2021, were refused a visa waiver and have still been unable to obtain visas. 

“Whether we were born here or came from someplace else, we all deserve the freedom to seek a better life. More than 40,000 people have been trapped in an impossible situation for over half a decade because the Biden administration is turning relief owed to those harmed by the Muslim Ban, a policy President Biden himself rescinded on his first day in office, into an endless tale of excuses,” said Hammad Alam, national security and civil rights staff attorney and program manager at the Asian Law Caucus. “Today, community members across the world are calling on the government to abide by the court’s ruling deeming their response to date unlawful and now create a fair and effective process that helps repair the lasting harms of the Muslim ban.” 

“We see time and again how the U.S. weaponizes its immigration system against Black, Brown, Muslim and poor communities. Class members in these cases have been prevented for five years from seeing loved ones, holding their grandchildren and celebrating important life events with their families. It’s time the Biden administration kept its promise of reunifying the thousands of families who are still separated as a result of the Muslim Ban by re-adjudicating their visa applications and granting visas to all who are eligible,” said Muslim Advocates Staff Attorney Christopher Godshall-Bennett.


Asian Law Caucus (ALC) was founded in 1972 as the nation’s first legal and civil rights organization focusing on the needs of low-income, immigrant and underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Recognizing that social, economic, political, and racial inequalities continue to exist in the United States, ALC is committed to the pursuit of equality and justice for all sectors of our society.

Lotfi Legal LLC is a small law firm taking on huge challenges. We are a full-service, women-owned immigration law firm serving clients around the world and fighting for the rights of immigrants and their families.

Established in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) is the nation’s leading organization exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of immigrants with low income.

Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization that uses litigation, policy engagement and communications strategies to promote justice and equity while protecting the diverse spectrum of Muslim communities from anti-Muslim discrimination in all of its forms.

Perkins Coie is a leading international law firm that is known for providing high-value, strategic solutions and extraordinary client service on matters vital to our clients’ success. With more than 1,200 lawyers in offices across the United States and Asia, we provide a full array of corporate, commercial litigation, intellectual property, and regulatory legal advice to a broad range of clients, including many of the world’s most innovative companies and industry leaders as well as public and not-for-profit organizations.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, California (CAIR-CA) is a chapter of the nation’s largest American Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization. CAIR-CA’s mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

The Iranian American Bar Association (“IABA”) seeks to (1) educate the Iranian-American community in the United States and the community at large about legal issues of interest, and to help ensure both are fully and accurately informed on legal matters of concern to the Iranian-American community; (2) defend and advance the legal rights of the Iranian-American community and other minority communities in the United States; and (3)  foster and promote the achievements of Iranian-American lawyers and other legal professionals. IABA has over 1500 members, and has chapters based out of the District of Columbia, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Northern California, Orange County, Phoenix, San Diego, and the South East.