Gomez v. Biden FAQ

Updated April 7, 2022

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Justice Action Center (JAC), and Innovation Law Lab, with pro bono support from Mayer Brown LLP, filed the lawsuit Gomez v. Trump in the summer of 2020 on behalf of family-based immigrant visa petitioners, diversity visa 2020 lottery winners, and nonimmigrant employment-based visa sponsors, challenging President Trump’s April and June 2020 proclamations which effectively stopped almost all immigration to the United States. On February 24, 2021, President Biden rescinded the ban on immigrant visas. On April 1, 2021, President Biden allowed the nonimmigrant visa ban to expire.

Important information for winners of the DV-2020 lottery: If you are a DV-2020 lottery winner and have not yet been issued a visa, there is a possibility that you may be able to receive one of the 9,095 diversity visas that a federal judge has ordered the State Department to reserve and process. On August 17, Judge Mehta issued an opinion granting partial summary judgment to Plaintiffs and ordering the government to process the 9,095 diversity visas that he reserved in September 2020. On October 13, 2021, Judge Mehta of the District Court of the District of Columbia ordered  the government to “commence processing the 9,095 DV-2020 visas as soon as is feasible and [must] conclude such processing no later than . . . September 30, 2022.” Judge Mehta further instructed that these reserved visas must be “issued to eligible qualified immigrants strictly in a random order.”

At the government’s request, Judge Mehta has issued a stay (pause) of his October 2021 order pending the government’s appeal to the D.C. Circuit. Judge Mehta’s order means that the government is not required to process or issue any of the reserved visas until the D.C. Circuit issues its order in the case, which will occur after oral argument in September 2022. In the meantime, however, Judge Mehta has required the Department of State to continue modifying its technology systems to enable the prompt issuance of DV-2020 visas if the D.C. Circuit affirms the October order.

Here is a timeline of what’s happened in the case so far: 

  • September 4, 2020:  A federal court in Washington, D.C. issued a preliminary injunction ordering the Trump administration to stop denying immigrant visas to 2020 diversity visa winners (DV-2020) on account of Presidential Proclamations 10014 and 10052. It also ruled that the order applies to all DV-2020 lottery winners, and not just the plaintiffs named in the lawsuits. Because of this ruling, over 7,000 individuals received DV-2020 visas.  
  • September 30, 2020:  The court amended its September 4 ruling and ordered the State Department to reserve an additional 9,095 diversity visas, past the September 30 deadline, for 2020 diversity lottery winners. It also ruled that lawyers representing the Gomez plaintiffs would now also represent all DV-2020 lottery winners who had not received visas as of April 2020.  The court order did not rule that Proclamations 10014 and 10052 are unlawful at this preliminary stage of the case — meaning that unfortunately, individuals impacted by the immigration ban, even if they had valid visas, could not enter the U.S. 
  • January 1, 2021: President Trump extended the immigration ban through March 31, 2021.
  • February 2, 2021: President Biden issued an Executive Order directing a review of agency actions that are inconsistent with the administration’s policy that “immigration processes and other benefits are delivered effectively and efficiently.” However, neither this Executive Order — nor others signed by President Biden since he took office — rescinded or made any explicit reference to the immigrant visa ban (Presidential Proclamation 10014) or nonimmigrant visa ban (Presidential Proclamation 10052).
  • February 19, 2021: Upon a request by Gomez Class Counsel and other Plaintiffs’ attorneys, the district court granted emergency relief to DV-2020 visa recipients who were issued visas under the Court’s September 4, 2020 injunction, but whose visas would expire before the then-current March 31, 2021 expiration date of the Proclamations. However, DV-2020 visas that expired or will expire between February 17 and February 28, 2021 have not been extended under the Judge’s order; recipients of those visas were granted National Interest Exceptions and must travel to the United States before their original visa expiration date. 
  • February 24, 2021: President Biden rescinded Proclamation 10014 (the immigrant visa ban), which means individuals with immigrant visas, including DV-2020 visas, may now seek to enter the U.S. upon completion of other entry formalities (e.g. completing Covid-19 testing and other country or region-specific formalities). President Biden did not take action to revoke the entry ban on nonimmigrant temporary workers.
  • April 1, 2021: President Biden allowed Proclamation 10052 (the nonimmigrant visa ban) to expire. Individuals who were refused visas subject to the restrictions of this Proclamation may now reapply by submitting new applications.
  • August 17, 2021: Judge Mehta granted in part Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment, ordering that the government process the reserved 9,095 DV-2020 visas “in a random order” until they have all been issued. The court directed the parties to confer and notify the court by August 25, 2021 whether they have agreed to a timeline within which the Department of State must process the visas.
  • October 13, 2021: Having considered the parties’ joint status report, Judge Mehta ordered the State Department to process 9,095 DV-2020 visas for members of the Gomez class by September 30, 2022. The judge ordered visa processing to commence “as soon as is feasible,” and directed that reserved visas must be “issued to eligible qualified immigrants strictly in a random order.” 
  • January 11, 2022: The U.S. government submitted their required status report on DV-2020 visa processing to the court. To date, the U.S. has not issued any of the reserved 9,095 visas.
  • February 1, 2022: The U.S. government requested that Judge Mehta stay his October 13, 2021 final judgment and order in Gomez, pending the government’s appeal. If the stay is granted, the U.S. government will not be required to move forward with processing the 9,095 reserved DV-2020 visas while they appeal Judge Mehta’s final order. Gomez class counsel have filed their notice of opposition to the stay.
  • March 3, 2022: Judge Mehta conditionally granted, for 30 days, the government’s motion for a stay of his October 2021 order pending the government’s appeal to the D.C. Circuit.
  • April 5, 2022: Judge Mehta extended the stay with respect to adjudicating and issuing the reserved DV-2020 visas until the D.C. Circuit announces its opinion on the appeal. However, Judge Mehta ordered the Department of State to continue modifying its technology systems to enable the prompt issuance of DV-2020 visas if the D.C. Circuit affirms his October order.

 

FAQ: Recent Developments (Order, Appeal, and Stay) 

Q: What do Judge Mehta’s August 17 and October 13 order mean?

On August 17, Judge Mehta issued an opinion granting in part Plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment. This decision means that Plaintiffs have prevailed on their legal claims that Defendants’ No-Visa Policy was unlawful, that Defendants inappropriately excluded diversity visas from mission-critical via processing, and that Defendants unreasonably delayed and withheld diversity visa adjudication. Because Judge Mehta ruled for Plaintiffs on these claims, he ordered that the 9,095 reserved DV-2020 visas be issued to Gomez class members “in a random order” until all visas have been granted. Judge Mehta delayed issuing a final order in order to allow the parties (both sides of the case) to attempt to reach agreement on a schedule for visa processing.

As the parties were unable to reach agreement on a visa processing timeline, on October 13, Judge Mehta ordered the State Department to process 9,095 DV-2020 visas for members of the Gomez class by September 30, 2022. The judge ordered visa processing to commence “as soon as is feasible,” and directed that reserved visas must be “issued to eligible qualified immigrants strictly in a random order,” consistent with the immigration statute.

Unfortunately, although Judge Mehta’s October 13 order is considered “final” before the District Court, the government can still challenge it before higher appellate courts. The government is now appealing Judge Mehta’s decision to the D.C. Circuit, the court that reviews decisions from the district court. This appeal will delay issuance of the reserved visas. It could also potentially change the outcome of the case, if the D.C. Circuit overturns (disagrees with) Judge Mehta’s order. Judge Mehta’s orders are now stayed until the D.C. Circuit reaches a decision on the appeal. (see next question)

Q: What does it mean for Judge Mehta to grant and extend the stay?

As of April 5, 2022, the majority of Judge Mehta’s October 13, 2021, final order and judgment in Gomez has been stayed. A stay in this case means that the government can pause any processing or issuance of the 9,095 reserved visas from FY2020 while the government’s appeal is adjudicated by the D.C. Circuit (the court that reviews decisions from the District Court of the District of Columbia). In other words, the U.S. government will no longer have to process the 9,095 reserved visas from FY2020 until the D.C. Circuit reaches a decision on the appeal. That said, Judge Mehta did instruct the Department of State to continue updating its technology systems to enable the prompt issuance of the reserved visas if the D.C. Circuit affirms (agrees with) Judge Mehta’s October order.

Q: When will the D.C. Circuit reach a decision on the appeal?

Although we do not know the exact date the D.C. Circuit will reach a decision, it will not occur until after oral arguments in the appeal, which have been set for September 2022.

Q: When will the additional 9,095 visas that the court has reserved for DV-2020 winners be processed?

At this time, we do not know when the 9,095 reserved visas will be issued as Judge Mehta’s order has been stayed pending appeal. If they are processed, it will be sometime after September 2022.

Q: If the additional 9,095 visas that the court has reserved are issued, to whom and how will they be distributed?

If Gomez plaintiffs prevail at the appeals stage, pursuant to Judge Mehta’s August 17 opinion, the reserved visas would be issued in a random order. Judge Mehta concluded that because the immigration statute requires “that the processing of diversity visas proceed in a random order,” he would “not order Defendants to prioritize certain DV-2020 applicants over other class members.” This relief is consistent with Gomez class counsel’s request that the reserved visas be allocated fairly and in a random order.

Q: How do I know if I am among the 9,095 visas?

At this time, the government has not provided any additional clarification about which DV-2020 selectees will be included in the random processing of the 9,095 visas.

Q: Should I continue to contact my consulate to request that my application be processed?

While the Gomez class has now prevailed on summary judgment before the district court, Judge Mehta’s order has been stayed pending appeal to the D.C. Circuit. Given the stay, no processing of the reserved DV-2020 visas is currently occurring, so you should not contact your consulate to process your application.

Q: 9,095 additional visas does not seem to be enough to cover all the would-be cases that have been thwarted this year because of Trump’s immigration ban. Are you going to ask the court to set aside more?

Gomez class counsel asked the court to reserve more than 9,095 additional visas, but the judge denied our request because of the limitations placed on Department of State consular staff to process additional visas due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In his August 2021 opinion, Judge Mehta again rejected the request to expand the number of reserved DV-2020 visas for processing beyond the 9,095 DV-2020 visas reserved in September 2020.

FAQ: Class Actions and Membership in the Class

Q: What is a class action?

A class action is a lawsuit in which a small group of plaintiffs can ask the court for relief on behalf of a larger group of similarly situated people. Class actions are useful when there’s a large group of impacted people (for example, the DV-2020 selectees impacted by the President’s proclamations go far beyond the six named plaintiffs in Gomez v. Trump), and it is difficult or inefficient for everyone to file their own lawsuit. As mentioned above, the district court has certified DV-2020 selectees as a class, and appointed Gomez counsel to represent the class with respect to the challenge to the legality of the immigration ban. We do not, however, represent class members with respect to their individual visa processing — including their individual efforts to obtain expedited visa processing, or to seek an exception to the immigration ban.

Q: What does it mean to be class counsel?

In class actions, the court appoints one or more attorneys to serve as “class counsel” to represent the members of the class who are not named plaintiffs in the litigation. The purpose is to make sure that the interests of class members who are not actually in court are protected at all stages of the case. In Gomez, the court appointed the attorneys at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Justice Action Center, Innovation Law Lab, and the Law Offices of Laboni Hoq as class counsel. Our job is to advocate for and protect the interests of the class members as the case goes forward. We will not be able to advise class members on questions specific to their individual cases, such as issues unique to the status of their visa processing or efforts to seek an exception to the presidential proclamations, but if you sign up here, we will keep you posted on the latest information as it relates to classwide issues.

Q: How do I know if I am a member of the class?

You are automatically a member of the class if you are a DV-2020 selectee who did not receive a diversity visa as of April 23, 2020, because of Proclamation 10014.

Q: I’m a DV-2020 selectee, but I was not a named plaintiff in one of the lawsuits against the Trump administration. Does the court’s latest ruling apply to me?

Yes, if you meet the class definition above (you are a DV-2020 selectee who did not receive a diversity visa as of April 23, 2020, because of Proclamation 10014). Judge Mehta’s orders in August and October 2021 apply to all Gomez class members and are not limited to the named plaintiffs in any of the cases challenging the suspension of entry for DV-2020 lottery winners. You do not need to take additional steps to become a class member.

Q: Will I receive any documents or certificate from the court or attorneys confirming my membership?

No, you will not. Your membership in the class is automatic and we will not send you any confirmation of membership. You can reference proof of your membership in the court’s September 30, 2020 memorandum opinion and amended order certifying the class, a copy of which is available here.

Q: I’m a DV-2020 selectee but I was not a named plaintiff in Gomez, nor any other lawsuit against the Trump administration. Do I need to join a new lawsuit to benefit from the Gomez court’s order?

No, you do not.

FAQ: For More Information

Q: How do I sign up to receive updates about the status of the Gomez case?

Please sign up here, and we will keep you posted about developments.  This sign-up form is for both DV-2020 selectees and family/employment-based visa petitioners.

Q: I’ve filled out that form on your website. Now what?

We will be in touch! As we receive important updates from the court about the status of the case, we will make sure and provide those updates to you and other members of the class. We understand that this experience has proven difficult for you and your family. We remain committed to doing everything possible to help you as soon as possible, and to making your voices heard before the court.