SAN FRANCISCO - The Trump administration settled with the plaintiffs last week in the first legal challenge to the president’s original executive order, which sought to bar travelers from certain majority Muslim countries from entering the United States and to dramatically curtail the admission of refugees. The settlement ensures that all travelers who were barred from the country on the basis of the ban and have not since returned to the United States are informed of their right to reapply for a visa and provided with a list of free legal services organizations that can help them do so.
The settlement came in the case o Darweesh v. Trump, which was filed as a nationwide class-action in federal district court in New York City on the morning of January 28, 2017, only hours after the first Muslim ban went into effect. The ban had plunged airports across the country into chaos as the Trump administration haphazardly implemented its discriminatory policy, leading to the separation of families and exclusion of refugees fleeing persecution. By the evening of January 28, the court had issued a nationwide injunction prohibiting the Trump administration from removing anyone from the country on the basis of the Muslim ban. As a result, the administration’s effort to bar Muslims and refugees from the country was halted barely 24 hours after it went into effect.
Having succeeded in halting detentions under the Muslim ban, the lawsuit then sought to address the harm done to those already excluded in the chaotic first days of the Muslim ban. In the settlement announced today, the government agreed to contact all individuals who had been barred from entry as a result of the ban and have not since reapplied for a visa or entered the United States, and to inform them of their right to reapply for a visa. The government will also provide a list of pro bono immigration legal aid providers available to assist with the visa application. The written notice will be provided in English, Arabic, and Farsi. The settlement also requires the Justice Department to coordinate the processing of new applications for any affected individuals identified by plaintiffs’ attorneys who are seeking to return to the United States in the next three months.
The plaintiffs included two Iraqi men, Hameed Khalid Darweesh and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, who had been unjustly detained at JFK airport due to the Muslim ban. They are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center, the National Immigration Law Center, the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School, and Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP.
When he was informed of the settlement, lead plaintiff Hameed Darweesh said: "It means a lot to me to be in America. The United States is a great country because of its people. I'm glad that the lawsuit is over. Me and my family are safe; my kids go to school; we can now live a normal life. I suffered back home, but I have my rights now. I'm a human."