Only in extreme circumstances are U.S. citizens denied the right to bring immigrant spouses from overseas. Many of these circumstances involve being connected to criminal or terrorist activity. The Asian Law Caucus – a San Francisco based civil rights organization – has recognized a trend in the denial of visas for members of the AMEMSA (Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian) community. Not only are spouses and family of U.S. citizens of AMEMSA descent denied visas, but they are denied visas without any explanation in violation of their constitutional right. The story of our client Fauzia Din highlights the unjust and unfair profiling practices in our broken immigration system.
Ms. Din, an Afghan native, fled to Pakistan after the Taliban occupied Afghanistan in 1996. She resettled in the United States as a refugee, and later became an American citizen. After Operation Enduring Freedom wrested control of her native land out of the hands of the Taliban, Ms. Din returned to Afghanistan to marry a man she had known for years. (Her husband wishes to remain unidentified due to the conflict in Afghanistan.)
Ms. Din filed a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to bring her husband from Afghanistan to the United States. The petition was approved by the Department of Homeland Security and forwarded to the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan for processing.
During his interview at the embassy, Ms. Din’s husband was told all his paperwork was in order. He answered general questions about the hardships of life under the Taliban. Before the Taliban, Ms. Din’s husband had administered payroll for government teachers. When the Taliban seized control, many of the teachers were dismissed because they were women. Ms. Din’s husband was reassigned by his supervisors to work on a youth education program.
Months passed after his interview, and Ms. Din and her husband grew increasingly desperate. Then Ms. Din’s husband received a letter denying his visa application. No explanation for the denial was included. Pressed, embassy staff sent an email stating that the visa had been denied “under Section 212(a)(3)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.” (This section outlines the terrorism related grounds of inadmissibility to the United States.)
The brief email continued: “it is not possible to provide a detailed explanation of the reasons for the refusal.” (Normally, a denial of a visa application is required to contain a detailed explanation for the denial.)
Ms. Din and her husband were shocked when they learned that the visa had been denied on grounds of terrorism. Like thousands of ordinary Afghanis, Ms. Din and her husband were more concerned with survival than the political and religious struggles which wracked the region. In fact, Ms. Din’s family fled Afghanistan because they feared the Taliban. Ms. Din and her husband can think of no reason why the embassy would deny his visa on terrorism grounds.
The Asian Law Caucus, a San Francisco based civil rights organization, and the law firm Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, LLP took on Ms. Din’s case pro bono. They asked the embassy to reconsider the denial, to no avail. They attempted to contact higher level officials in the State Department. To date, Ms. Din’s lawyers have received no response. Ms. Din was left with only one remedy, a lawsuit in federal court. (As an American citizen, Ms. Din has a constitutionally protected interest in her marriage. She has asked a federal court to review the visa denial because no facially legitimate reason – indeed, no reason at all – was given for the denial.)
Without free legal assistance, Ms. Din, who earns less than fifteen thousand dollars a year as an in-home care provider, could not even consider such a suit. Yet lawsuits are inevitably slow, and Ms. Din’s separation from her husband has already taken an immense emotional toll.
Ms. Din’s story is only one of thousands concerning U.S. citizens who have been adversely affected by unjust immigration policies that target members of the AMEMSA community.
The mission of the Asian Law Caucus is to promote, advance, and represent the legal and civil rights of the Asian and Pacific Islander communities. Recognizing that social, economic, political and racial inequalities continue to exist in the United States, the Asian Law Caucus is committed to the pursuit of equality and justice for all sectors of our society with a specific focus directed toward addressing the needs of low-income and Asian and Pacific Islanders.
Among the strongest global law firms, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, LLP is home to lawyers in 32 offices worldwide who are admitted to practice in more than 130 courts and jurisdictions worldwide. The firm supports civic, charitable, educational and professional organizations with extensive pro bono activities. The firm helps hundreds of active pro bono clients including religious institutions, shelters, educational foundations, arts societies, environmental groups and civil rights initiatives.