A coalition of nearly 200 organizations, individuals and law firms sued the government of Joe Biden for refusing to issue visas to citizens of some thirty countries for the coronavirus pandemic.
The restrictions were ordered through five Proclamations signed by Donald Trump last year and that they freeze the emission of visas to prevent the spread of covid-19.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), one of the plaintiffs, points out that while the president may, using his executive powers, suspend certain citizens from entering the country, the order does not require the State Department to leave of issuing visas, taking into account the huge number of people who face a long wait to be able to travel and enter the United States.
Trump’s proclamations “compounded the problem of delays,” said Jesse Bless, AILA’s director of federal litigation.
The demand was filed against Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. The complaint indicates that both he and the department he heads “have illegally refused to issue visas due to temporary travel bans that restrict the entry of people who have been present in certain countries.”
On January 28, eight days after assuming control of the White House, Biden validated Trump’s proclamations through another proclamation ( 10143) that also suspends the entry of foreigners from areas or places that pose a risk of transmitting the covid-19 disease.
“The courts have repeatedly told the State Department that it cannot adopt a no visa policy when the President suspends the entry of persons by Proclamation,” added Bless. “The failure of the Department in this case is particularly egregious because people who obtain a visa can enter the country after going to a third party that is not on the prohibited list and be quarantined for 14 days.”
Bless also said that unfortunately, the Foreign Ministry “has not been willing to consider the concerns raised by AILA and the rest of the plaintiffs.” And that the demand is due precisely “to that refusal to recognize the illegality of the policy of not issuing visas.”
Despite adverse failures
The plaintiffs further indicated that despite being repeatedly reprimanded by the courts, “the State Department has refused to do the right thing and award all the visas.” And they expressed confidence that they will win the trial “before the government hurts thousands of other people,” including spouses and children of lawful permanent residents and US citizens.
Jeff Joseph, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said that “through Executive orders, first the Trump administration and now the Biden Administration,” they have kept families apart and prevented employers from hiring foreign talent.
“They are holding the entire visa system hostage based on an illegal abuse of authority,” he added.
In the lawsuit, the coalition indicates that, one year after the pandemic was declared, “there are now many ways to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, and the State Department has the resources to do something more creative and reasonable than just close the consulates ”.
“Unfortunately as the consulates refuse to issue visas based on these proclamations, the delays have grown to historic levels. Unless a court intervenes, plaintiffs wait years before they have a chance to enter the United States, ”they said.
The State Department said it would not comment on the lawsuit. The White House has also not responded on the issue.
The only Latin American country included in the list of countries affected by visa restrictions is Brazil, which has become the epicenter of the pandemic and the origin of one of the deadliest variants of covid-19, along with Great Britain.
The Proclamation 10143 signed by Biden on February 28, it indicates that the federal government “must act quickly and aggressively to combat the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)” and that the national emergency “continues to pose a serious threat to our health and safety.”
He adds that according to scientific data and reports from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and data on dangerous variants of the virus that have appeared in several countries, federal authorities have “re-examined their policies on international travel.”
Biden further said that while the review of public health measures continues, “and given the determination of the CDC, working in close coordination with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), I have determined that it is in the interest of the United States to take measures to restrict and suspend entry into the country ”of both immigrants and non-immigrants who were physically present within the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom (excluding overseas territories outside Europe), the Republic. Republic of Brazil and the Republic of South Africa during the 14-day period prior to your entry or attempted entry into the United States.
The plaintiffs insist that the order violates the law and that the thousands of affected citizens have the right to receive a visa and, before traveling to the United States, can quarantine in countries not included in the prohibited list.
“The traffic jams generated by these proclamations are gigantic,” says Jaime Barrón, an immigration attorney practicing in Dallas, Texas.
“Unfortunately, the prohibition against legal immigration access to the United States, suspended the processing of work visas, commercial exchange, transfers of company directors, boyfriends, tourists, parents and children who had their consular procedures approved for reunification of the families, “he pointed out.
“The pandemic and the measures taken by governments to combat it disrupted the entire American way of life,” Barrón said.