When we identified egregious delays in the Special Immigrant Visa program for those who risked their lives to work alongside U.S. troops, we sued the government in 2015—and won! And, in January of 2017, when the President issued his first executive order, we once again saw the rights of our clients and other refugees and immigrants being violated. With the help of a coalition of lawyers and students, we went back to court. Since then, our litigation work has resulted in relief for thousands of refugees and others.

IRAP’s litigation department brings systemic litigation to help refugees and others in need of a safe home. We believe that all people should have the right to a safe passage and the opportunity to thrive.

We are an innovative and collaborative team that is committed to high standards of quality. We work closely with our clients, colleagues, and community organizations.

Learn more about our lawsuits.

Current cases:

Adam v. Pompeo: Challenging the delays in adjudicating I-730/Follow-To-Join Petitions for Family Reunification

In enacting the Refugee Act of 1980, Congress created a special pathway for refugee families separated during the difficult and often chaotic journey to safety. Through the so-called “follow-to-join” process, refugees already resettled in the United States can petition to have spouses and children reunited with them in safety. Notwithstanding Congress’ intent that these families be reunited as quickly as possible, the average processing time for follow-to-join petitions has more than quadrupled under the Trump Administration.

On October 22, 2020, IRAP filed a lawsuit in partnership with two Darfuri refugees resettled in the Baltimore area who have been waiting for a decision on their petitions for their spouses and children to join them in the United States for more than a decade, collectively.

View the press release:

View the October 22, 2020 complaint:

CASA de Maryland v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security: Protecting asylum seekers’ access to work authorization

On July 21, 2020, IRAP, working with the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project and the law firm Gibson Dunn, LLP, filed a complaint challenging the Trump Administration’s efforts to destroy asylum through two rules that would limit the ability of asylum seekers to work legally in the United States while they wait for their asylum claims to be adjudicated. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are five non-profit organizations that  serve asylum applicants: CASA de Maryland, ASAP, Centro Legal de la Raza, Oasis Legal Services, and Pangea Legal Services.

On September 11, 2020, the court issued a preliminary injunction that prohibits the government from applying some of the rule changes to members of CASA de Maryland and ASAP. For more information about the preliminary injunction, view the press release.

The preliminary injunction applies to anyone who is a member of CASA de Maryland or ASAP when they submit the application for a work permit (EAD) based on an asylum application. For more information on how to join CASA, view here. For more information on how to join ASAP, view here. For instructions on submitting your application so that you can benefit from the order, view here.

URGENT NOTICE (10/23/20): If you are a member of ASAP who has a pending work permit (EAD) application based on asylum, take action here before October 25 to make sure that the injunction applies to your application.

View the press release:

View the complaint:

View the motion for preliminary relief:

View the preliminary injunction:

HIAS v. Trump: Preventing state and local officials from blocking refugee resettlement

On September 26, 2019, President Trump issued a new executive order that would give state and local officials the unprecedented power to refuse refugees being resettled in their jurisdictions. The order could allow states and localities to prevent refugees from being reunited with their U.S.-based families, and communities from welcoming refugees, even if they have long-standing and successful resettlement programs.

On November 21, IRAP filed a complaint against this new order on behalf of three faith-based resettlement agencies, HIAS, Church World Service (CWS), and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), who would be required by the federal government’s implementation of the order to obtain written consent from all localities and states in which they plan to resettle refugees.

The lawsuit charges that the order violates federal law and is yet another attempt by the Trump administration to restrict refugee resettlement in the United States.

On January 15, 2020, the federal court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction, prohibiting the Administration from allowing states and localities to veto refugee resettlement. The government has appealed from the preliminary injunction and the appeal has been scheduled for oral argument on October 27, 2020.

View the press release on the initial filing: Faith-Based Refugee Humanitarian Groups File Challenge to Trump Administration’s Executive Order Allowing State and Local Officials To Block Refugee Resettlement

View the November 21, 2019 complaint: HIAS v. Trump Complaint

View the January 15, 2020 Preliminary Injunction: Order Granting Plaintiffs’ Preliminary Injunction

Kiakombua v. Wolf: Protecting the rights of asylum seekers

In June 2019, IRAP and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) filed a lawsuit challenging the April 2019 changes to the Credible Fear Interview Lesson Plan—a document setting forth the government’s policy for conducting a screening interview to determine whether an asylum seeker has a credible fear of persecution if returned to their home country and therefore should have an opportunity to prove their asylum claim in immigration court. These changes turn what is supposed to be a non-adversarial screening mechanism into a biased and contentious hearing, during which the asylum officers are expected to find any reason possible that the asylum seeker lacks a “credible fear”—and can therefore be immediately deported back to their home country. As a result of these changes, asylum seekers like the plaintiffs are at risk of being wrongly deported to countries where they face persecution and even death.

The lawsuit claims that the changes are unlawful under the Refugee Act, the Convention Against Torture, the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the Constitution. The case is fully briefed before the district court and awaiting a decision.

View the press release on the initial filing: IRAP & RAICES File Challenge to Trump Administration’s Latest Attack on Asylum Seekers

View the April, 30, 2019 Lesson Plan challenged in this case: Lesson Plan Overview: Credible Fear of Persecution and Torture Determinations

View the complaint: Kiakombua v. McAleenan Complaint

View the Administrative Record the government produced in this case.

View the government’s opening brief (dated August 15, 2019).

View the plaintiffs’ opening brief (dated September 5, 2019).

The Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP), Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS), and American Gateways are serving as Consulting Counsel to this litigation.

Afghan and Iraqi Allies v. Pompeo: Challenging the systemic delay in processing of Special Immigrant Visa applications

For approximately ten years, the Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) programs have provided a legal pathway to safety for Afghan and Iraqi nationals who have supported the U.S. government and military in their home countries and, as a result, have been the targets of violent attacks, death threats, and harassment.

Recognizing that these applicants live in constant risk of danger and the need to decide SIV applications expeditiously, in 2013, Congress mandated that the U.S. government should complete its processing of an SIV application within nine months of the application’s submission. Instead, thousands of applicants have experienced egregious processing delays, resigning them to a state of limbo as they wait to learn if they will be able to resettle to the United States or have to find other ways to protect themselves and their families in the face of ongoing threats to their safety.

On June 11, 2018, IRAP and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer US LLP filed a class action lawsuit challenging these processing delays on behalf of a putative class of Afghan and Iraqi SIV applicants who have been waiting longer than nine months for the U.S. government to decide their applications. The five named plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated SIV applicants, sought an order compelling the government defendants to act on their long-pending applications so that they have the chance to escape the dangerous circumstances they face as a result of their dedicated service to the United States.

After certifying a class of all Afghan and Iraqi SIV applicants who have awaited processing of their applications for over nine months and holding that the delays they experienced were unreasonable and unlawful, the Court ordered the government to submit a plan for remedying delays in class members’ applications. The Court found the government’s first proposed plan inadequate and subsequently ordered the parties to jointly submit a new proposal.

On June 15, the Court approved the parties’ joint adjudication plan and ordered that the government submit its first progress report on September 25, 2020. The plan outlines target timeframes for the government’s expedited processing of an estimated 10,000 delayed applications, as well as a reporting framework to hold the government accountable to the agreed upon terms.

View the press release: IRAP & Freshfields File Class Action Challenge to Egregious Processing Delays in Special Visa Program for Afghan and Iraqi Allies

View the June 11, 2018 complaint: Afghan and Iraqi Allies v. Pompeo Complaint

View a summary of government data collected in discovery: Processing Delays in the SIV Program – Summary

View the summary judgment decision: Memorandum Opinion

View the class certification decision: Memorandum Opinion

Doe v. Wolf: Challenging the mass denial of refugee status to Iranian religious minorities

In February 2018, the refugee applications of nearly 90 Christians, Mandaeans, and other persecuted religious minorities from Iran were denied by the Trump administration, despite applying through the Vienna-based Lautenberg-Specter program, which allows U.S. residents to submit an application on behalf of refugee applicants in Iran. The individuals received notices of denial that stated they were being denied “as a matter of discretion.”

In response to these unprecedented mass denials, IRAP and co-counsel Latham & Watkins LLP filed a lawsuit on behalf of Iranian individuals and their U.S. family members on April 18. 2018.

The class action lawsuit seeks the Court’s intervention to enforce the requirements of the Lautenberg Amendment and other laws so that the applicants can safely reunite with their family members and practice their religious beliefs without fear of persecution.

In July 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California sided with plaintiffs, ordering the government to disclose individualized reasons for the mass denials. As a result of the court order, the government overturned the denials of a number of the Iranian applicants and they were able to reunite with their families in the United States.

After discovery, the court granted in part plaintiffs’ motion to amend the complaint to add details about the vetting change that caused the unprecedented mass denials. Defendants moved to dismiss the amended complaint and that motion is pending before the court.

View the press release: Groups File Class Action Challenge to Unprecedented Mass Denials of Iranian Refugees in the Lautenberg-Specter Program

View the April 18, 2018 complaint: Doe v. Nielsen Complaint

View the July 10, 2018 District Court order: Doe v. Nielsen decision

IRAP v. Trump: Challenging the Trump administration Executive Orders banning entry of nationals from certain Muslim-majority countries

IRAP is the named plaintiff in IRAP v. Trump, the first lawsuit to challenge both President Trump’s original and revised Executive Orders in their entirety. The complaint states that the order discriminates against Muslims because of their religion and is thus unconstitutional. The lawsuit was filed by IRAP, HIAS, the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), and individual plaintiffs. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) are acting as co-counsel.

On June 26, 2017, the United States Supreme Court decided to review the case, however, canceled October oral arguments after the President signed a new Proclamation on September 24 which restricted travel from eight, majority Muslim, countries. On October 17, Hawaii Federal Judge Derrick Watson granted motion for a temporary restraining order, which blocked the newest Proclamation from taking effect. After subsequent oral arguments at the Maryland District Court, in response to an amended complaint filed by IRAP, the ACLU, and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), Judge Theodore Chuang ruled in favor of a partial preliminary injunction, providing relief to thousands who would’ve been affected by these sweeping, discriminatory travel restrictions. On February 15, 2018, the Fourth Circuit en banc affirmed the injunction.

However, on June 26, 2018, the Supreme Court in Trump v. Hawai’i, which also challenged the new Proclamation, allowed the Proclamation to take effect and found that plaintiffs are not entitled to preliminary relief. Following that decision, IRAP v. Trump was remanded to the district court. The district court found that the case should proceed to discovery, but the Fourth Circuit reversed that decision.

View the press release: GROUPS FILE NEW CHALLENGE TO TRUMP MUSLIM BAN Press Release Feb 7 2017

View the February 7, 2017 complaint: IRAP_v_Trump_Complaint

View the October 17, 2017 preliminary injunction: Order Granting Plaintiffs Motion for a Preliminary Injunction

View the February 15, 2018 Fourth Circuit decision: Order Affirming Motion for Preliminary Injunction

View the May 2, 2019 decision denying the motion to dismiss: Memorandum Opinion

Hamama v. Adducci: Seeking stay of deportation of Iraqi nationals

Hamama is a class action challenge in the Eastern District of Michigan that aims to afford Iraqi nationals facing removal with sufficient time to reopen their immigration cases, including to seek asylum and related relief on the basis that country conditions in Iraq have changed. The case was filed in June 2017 after ICE arrested hundreds of Iraqi nationals with removal orders from years ago, following Iraq’s agreement to repatriation of its nationals in exchange for being omitted from the Trump Administration’s second travel ban Executive Order. The court stayed the deportations and over 100 Iraqis benefitted from the decision before it was reversed on appeal.

The case does not provide individual immigration relief to Iraqi nationals with final orders of removal — Iraqi nationals facing removal, their families, and attorneys who are or want to be part of a national effort to help them should review the materials on IRAP’s resources page.

Abdi v. Duke: Seeking fair access to parole and bond hearings for detained arriving asylum-seekers

In summer 2017, IRAP and the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a class action challenge to the detention of asylum-seekers at Batavia, a federal immigration facility in upstate New York. These asylum-seekers had declared themselves at the border and has passed what is known as a “credible fear interview,” establishing that they have a significant likelihood of success on their asylum claims. Nevertheless, the government has continued to hold them in detention, summarily denying them the fair opportunity for parole and refusing to provide them with bond hearings within six months of detention.

View the press release: Court Orders Federal Immigration Jail in Buffalo to Offer Parole, Bond Hearings for Asylum-Seekers

View the September 25, 2017 complaint: Abdi v. Duke Complaint

View plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction: Abdi v. Duke Motion for PI

On November 17, 2017, the district court issued a preliminary injunction ordering the government to give asylum-seekers in detention at Batavia access to fair parole procedures and to provide those detained for six months or more access to individualized bond hearings.

View the November 17, 2017 court decision:  Abdi v. Duke decision

On February 9, 2018, the district court clarified the injunction to hold that immigration judges must take into account ability to pay and alternatives to money bond in setting release conditions at bond hearings.

View the February 9, 2018 decision: Decision and Order on Motion to Clarify Injunction

On September 24, 2019, following the Supreme Court decision in Jennings v. Rodriguez, 138 S. Ct. 830 (2018), the district court vacated the injunction requiring bond hearings for those detained for six months or more. The parole portion of the injunction remains in effect.

View the September 24, 2019 decision: Decision and Order

FOIA Litigation

IRAP frequently requests documents relevant to our work through the Freedom of Information Act and, where necessary, we litigate the request. We are currently litigating FOIA requests seeking:

  • Policies and procedures applicable to the refugee program
  • Government contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq relevant to SIV applications
  • Documents relating to the Muslim ban
  • Documents relating to changes in policy to USCIS’ recognition of refugees’ marriages
  • Documents relating to changes in parole policy following Executive Order 13,767, which restricted grants of parole to individual “case-by-case” assessment and limited access to parole programs like the Central American Minors parole program.
  • Documents relating to surveillance of refugee communities in the United States

IRAP v. DHS and USCIS (19-2042)

IRAP is litigating a December 2017 FOIA request for records related to changes in parole policy following Executive Order 13,767, which restricted grants of parole to individual “case-by-case” assessment and limited access to parole programs like the Central American Minors parole program.

View the March 5, 2019 complaint: IRAP v. DHS and USCIS (19-2042)

IRAP v. DHS and USCIS (19-2043)

IRAP is litigating a July 2018 FOIA request for changes in policy to USCIS’ recognition of refugees’ marriages, which are crucial to ensuring that refugee families can be resettled together or reunited.

View the March 5, 2019 complaint: IRAP v. DHS and USCIS (19-2043)

Cases in Settlement Monitoring:

JFS v. Trump: Challenging the refugee ban implemented under October 2017 agency memo

After the suspension on refugee resettlement ordered by President Trump expired on October 24, a new set of restrictions on refugees was immediately implemented. These include a minimum 90-day suspension of admission of refugees from 11 countries, nine of which are predominantly Muslim. The order also indefinitely suspends the follow-to-join process, which reunites spouses and children with refugees already in the United States.

On November 13, IRAP, along with the National Immigration Law Center (NILC); Lauren Aguiar, Mollie M. Kornreich and Abigail Sheehan Davis; Perkins Coie; and HIAS, filed a complaint against these new restrictions on behalf of Jewish Family Service of Seattle and Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley, as well as several individual plaintiffs harmed by the refugee ban. These include refugees in the final stages of their resettlement process who are now trapped in limbo, parents who are desperately trying to reunite with their displaced children, and a military supervisor hoping to save his Iraqi interpreter’s life.

On December 23, 2017, the plaintiffs won a preliminary injunction against the suspension of refugee processing. On February 10, 2020, after a period of discovery, the parties reached a major settlement in which the government agreed to expedite the processing of over 300 refugees affected by the ban and to count any refugees admitted under the agreement under the refugee cap in effect at the time of the ban.

View the press release: Groups File Class Action Challenge to Trump Administration’s Latest Refugee Ban

View the November 13, 2017 complaint: JFS v. Trump complaint

View the December 23, 2017 Preliminary Injunction: Order Granting Plaintiffs Motion for Preliminary Injunction

View the settlement: Settlement Agreement

S.A. v. Trump: Challenging the termination of the Central American Minors parole program

In 2014, U.S. government set up the Central American Minors (CAM) program as a dual refugee/parole program, in response to the tens of thousands of Central American children who were making the dangerous journey to the southern U.S. border after fleeing violent gangs in their home countries. Since its inception, the CAM program enabled thousands of children to be processed for refugee resettlement and humanitarian parole while still in their home countries, and then to travel safely by plane to the United States.

Shortly after President Trump’s inauguration, his Administration secretly shut down the CAM parole program and stopped processing applications. Seven months later, the Administration officially terminated the CAM parole program and revoked conditional parole approvals for 2,700 children who were in final stages of processing–some had already bought plane tickets to the United States.

On June 13, 2018, IRAP and Arnold & Porter filed a lawsuit challenging the government’s termination on behalf of twelve children and parents, as well as CASA, a community organization that helped hundreds of its members file CAM applications. On March 1, 2019, the federal court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction, ordering the government to continue processing the CAM applications of the 2,700 conditionally approved children. On April 12, 2019, the plaintiffs and the government entered an agreement that made the court’s order permanent. The government says it expects most of the 2,700 children to travel to the United States on parole.

View the press release on the initial filing: Groups File Challenge to Administration’s Termination of Humanitarian Parole Program for Central American Children

View the June 13, 2018 complaint: S. A. v. Trump Complaint

View the March 1, 2019 Preliminary Injunction: Order Granting Plaintiffs’ Preliminary Injunction

View the April 12, 2019 Settlement: Settlement Agreement

View Resources for Families Who Qualify for Processing Under the Settlement: Central American Minors (CAM): Restarting Program for Certain Applicants

For more information about the case, click here.

Closed cases:

Darweesh v. Trump: Challenging the first Trump administration Executive Order banning entry of nationals from certain Muslim-majority countries

Darweesh v. Trump was the first lawsuit filed in response to the travel ban Executive Order. The same day it was filed, a federal judge in New York blocked the unlawful deportation of refugees and other travelers who had valid documents to enter the United States.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two Iraqi IRAP clients, who had been unjustly detained at JFK Airport for nearly 20 hours each and threatened with deportation. They were represented by IRAP, the ACLU, NILC, the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School, and Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP.

Through the lawsuit, the government was ordered to produce a list of individuals who were detained pursuant to the first Executive Order during a period immediately following the federal judge’s order. In the final settlement, the government agreed to reach out to every single person who was denied entry or deported under the first Executive Order and who had not yet reapplied for a visa or returned to the United States, inform them of their right to reapply for a visa, and provide them with a list of free legal services organizations that could help them do so.

View the press release: First Lawsuit Filed Challenging Trump’s Order Banning Refugees From the United States

View the January 28, 2017 complaint: Darweesh v Trump

View the New York Times story:

View the settlement agreement: Settlement Agreement

9 Iraqi Allies v. Kerry: Seeking adjudication of Special Immigrant Visa applications pending for over nine months

In 2015, IRAP and co-counsel Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security on behalf of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis and Afghans, some of whom who had been waiting for over five years to receive Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) because of their service to the United States. The lawsuit, 9 Iraqi Allies Under Serious Threat Because of Their Faithful Service to the United States v. Kerry, alleged that the government failed to take timely action on the plaintiffs’ SIV applications, violating a law passed by Congress that SIV applications should be processed within nine months.

In January 2016, a federal judge in Washington D.C. ruled in favor of IRAP’s clients, stating that the government had a duty to decide the applications in a timely manner which it failed to do. As a result, the U.S. Government entered into an agreement with the plaintiffs to finally process the their SIV applications. All plaintiffs received a decision within 3 months pursuant to the agreement and thirteen of them and their families now live safely in the United States.

View the decision denying motion to dismiss: Memorandum opinion