Dozens of American citizens and legal residents with family members in Iran sued the Trump administration on Tuesday over the president’s controversial travel ban, with some saying they’ve waited years to be reunited with their spouses or relatives to no avail.
The White House instituted the latest incarnation of its travel ban in late 2017, the third iteration meant to crack down on immigration from Muslim-majority nations. The Trump administration has said that individuals living in the U.S. could apply for waivers on a case-by-case basis to bring their relatives to the country, but civil rights advocates have long argued that few of those applications are ever granted.
Curtis Morrison, the attorney representing the families, told HuffPost his clients have been stonewalled in their efforts to obtain the waivers, and have mostly been told by consular officers that the cases were “out of their hands.” Morrison noted that an automated email sent from the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey — which deals with some interviews for those seeking visa waivers — reads: “Our office has no control over this process.”
“They don’t have any other options, and so the only hope they have is the court,” Morrison added to the Associated Press this week. “Otherwise, they could be in this indefinitely.”
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Some of those families now worry that increased tensions between the U.S. and Iran amid Trump’s ongoing crackdown against the country over a nuclear deal could make it even more difficult for the plaintiffs to be reunited with their loved ones.
Morrison wrote in the suit that his clients had waited an average of nearly a year-and-a-half while their applications were in limbo.
“Those days have been filled with unbearable hardships and a constant state of distress that, absent intervention, will last indefinitely,” the suit reads.
The attorney previously sued the government on behalf of seven families with relatives in Yemen. All of their applications have now been approved, he told the AP.
The Supreme Court upheld Trump’s travel ban more than a year ago on a 5-4 vote, throwing thousands of families with heritage in several Muslim-majority countries into chaos.
“The government has set forth a sufficient national security justification to survive rational basis review,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote at the time. “Because there is persuasive evidence that the entry suspension has a legitimate grounding in national security concerns, quite apart from any religious hostility, we must accept that independent justification.”
The ruling has already had lasting consequences for Americans and U.S. residents. Spouses have reported being separated from their loved ones for years, others have been stymied in their efforts to seek medical care and some have been forced to leave the U.S. entirely to live with their families abroad.
The State Department denied more than 37,000 visa applications in 2018 due to the ban, according to federal data released earlier this year.
The ban itself has faced a bevy of lawsuits around the country, and currently impacts those in Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, as well as those from North Korea and government officials from Venezuela.