Civil rights groups have filed a lawsuit against the US State Department for not processing the visa applications of Iranian and Yemeni citizens who won the chance to immigrate to the US.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the National Immigration Law Center filed the lawsuit on Friday in the US District Court in Washington DC, on behalf of Iranians and Yemenis who won in the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, also known as the green card lottery.
More than 90 Iranian and Yemeni lottery winners said the US government was refusing to issue their visas after President Donald Trump's temporary travel ban was reinstated by the US Supreme Court, which prevents the entry of people from six predominantly Muslim nations.
"This isn't right, fair, or lawful, and we are willing to do what it takes — including going to court — to fight for the rights of our clients," said Esther Sung, an attorney at National Immigration Law Center.
The groups say Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued an illegal policy when he directed consular officials to deny visas to lottery winners because Trump’s order bans entry into the US, not visa issuance.
“Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, possessing a visa does not automatically entitle one to entry; and conversely, being subject to a temporary suspension of entry does not make one ineligible to receive a visa,” they argued in court documents.
“Nor is the issuance of a visa during a temporary suspension of entry pointless, as the visa could be used to enter the United States once the temporary suspension on entry is lifted.”
In June, the US Supreme Court granted the Trump administration’s request to reinstate parts of the travel ban, after months of legal battle between the government and some states in federal courts.
Trump’s order imposes a 90-day travel ban on people from Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan who want to enter the US.
During the 2016 presidential race, Trump campaigned for "a total and complete shutdown" of Muslims entering the United States.