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Alex Mensing, Communications Strategist
WASHINGTON D.C. ––On Tuesday evening, August 17, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the Biden Administration to issue 9,095 diversity visas from Fiscal Year 2020 that the court reserved nearly a year ago. This decision restores hope for thousands of families from all over the world—including Afghanistan—who have suffered excruciating uncertainty, missed opportunities and cruel indifference due to the enduring impacts of Trump’s immigration ban.
Yesterday’s ruling is part of a long struggle to secure visas for the winners of the 2020 diversity visa (DV) lottery whose chance to immigrate to the United States was thwarted by former President Trump’s April 2020 proclamation that halted virtually all immigration, indefinitely separated hundreds of thousands of families, and caused the State Department to cease processing DV-2020 applications. In Gomez v. Trump, our civil rights coalition including the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Justice Action Center (JAC) and Innovation Law Lab, with pro bono support from Mayer Brown LLP, filed the first lawsuit challenging the entirety of the Trump Administration’s immigration ban. In addition to diversity visa winners, plaintiffs included family-based visa applicants and businesses who employ nonimmigrant foreign workers.
Due to the State Department’s unlawful suspension of visa adjudication for visa recipients subject to the immigration ban, approximately 40,000 of the 55,000 available diversity visas for Fiscal Year 2020 remained unissued by the September 30, 2020 deadline. On that date, Judge Mehta ordered the U.S. State Department to reserve 9,095 diversity visas for future processing pending final resolution of the case. Nearly a year later, yesterday’s court order ensures that these visas will finally be issued to people from around the world who will undoubtedly contribute greatly to our communities.
Judge Mehta’s opinion grants our motion for partial summary judgment on multiple claims, finding that the government’s policy of refusing to process DV-2020 applications was unlawful; that the government inappropriately excluded DV-2020 applicants from expedited, “mission-critical” visa processing; and that the government unreasonably delayed and withheld adjudication of DV-2020 applications. The court orders the government to process all of the reserved 9,095 diversity visas “in a random order,” consistent with the immigration statute. The parties are in the process of negotiating a timeline for issuing the visas.
We celebrate this victory for all DV-2020 applicants, and we vow to continue to fight for the rights of all immigrants.
Jesse Bless, AILA’s Director of Litigation, had this to say: “AILA is grateful that our class representation will provide relief for the thousands of families who will now enjoy the opportunity to live in the United States. We hope that this win will encourage the government to take immediate action to help so many others seeking the same opportunity.”
Esther Sung, Legal Director for JAC, said: “This win for the DV-2020 class is not only the legally correct outcome, but also a just and moral one. JAC is relieved that thousands of families from around the world – including thousands of Afghan DV-2020 winners desperately seeking safety – will now have the chance to come to the United States.”
Tess Hellgren, Innovation Law Lab’s Deputy Legal Director, stated: “The fact that it still takes legal battles and court orders to guarantee the rights of diversity visa winners is a testament to the systemic change we urgently need in order to build a more welcoming, just, and compassionate immigration system. We celebrate this decision for the families who will so greatly benefit from it and will keep fighting on the side of immigrants and refugees.”
Yesterday’s ruling can be viewed here.
More information about the lawsuit, including case filings, can be found here.
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American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), founded in 1946, is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.
Justice Action Center (JAC) is a new nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting for greater justice for immigrant communities by combining litigation and storytelling. There is tremendous unmet need in the litigation landscape for immigrant communities. JAC is committed to bringing additional litigation resources to bear to address unmet needs in currently underserved areas. There is also untapped potential in how litigation can be combined with digital strategies to empower clients and change the corrosive narrative around immigrants.
Innovation Law Lab is a nonprofit organization that leverages advocacy, technology and law to fight for immigrant and refugee justice. By bringing technology to the fight for justice, Innovation Law Lab empowers advocates to scale their impact and provide effective representation to immigrants in detention and in hostile judicial jurisdictions across the country so that every claim that should win, does win, everywhere, every time.