Sanwar Ali: additional reporting and comments
According to a report published by Forbes, the Biden administration is facing a lawsuit over coronavirus-related US visa restrictions. The lawsuit is reportedly challenging the US State Department’s refusal to issue US visas in countries where the Biden administration maintains COVID-related restrictions on entering the US.
Perhaps Biden is not in any great hurry to make it easier for overseas workers. Perhaps like Trump he thinks that at the current time it may not be politically advantageous to reduce the queue for US visas. Biden did not end the Trump work visa ban early. It was allowed to run its course until the end of March 2021. However, because of COVID-19 related delays the visa ban made less of a difference than expected.
Filed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the lawsuit claims that the restrictions are not advancing public health, since any person granted a US visa must show a negative COVID-19 test prior to flying to the United States and can quarantine.
The lawsuit adds that people in some US visa categories, and individuals with valid visas previously issued, are permitted to enter the US while people across other categories are refused.
Immigration and Nationality Act unlawfully interpreted
An excerpt from the lawsuit, filed on April 7, states: “Defendants have unlawfully interpreted section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act authorizing the President to temporarily suspend the entry of classes of noncitizens to be a grant of authority to suspend the processing of visas and create exceptions for issuance.”
“This matter involves the unlawful suspension of visa processing for Plaintiffs simply because they temporarily may not enter the United States.
“Defendants have unlawfully relied on certain suspensions on entry that apply to individuals who were physically present in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the People’s Republic of China, the Federative Republic of Brazil, South Africa, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the Schengen area of Europe (“designated countries”) during the 14 days prior to seeking entry,” the lawsuit adds.
According to the lawsuit, the regional entry bans based on presence allow for entry to the US after an individual has remained outside the designated countries for 14 days. However, the State Department is currently refusing to issue visas, which would allow them to quarantine in a third country for 14 days before seeking entry into America.
The lawsuit states: “Due to defendants’ unlawful refusal to issue visas to individuals in these countries, the plaintiffs are subject to a total, inescapable ban on receiving their visas, or even having these visas adjudicated, unless they can meet certain, unlawful and narrowly proscribed exceptions to trigger visa processing. The law authorizes none of this agency action.”
The AILA is now calling on the Court to scrap the State Department’s policy, describing it as ‘arbitrary, capricious and not in accordance with law under the Administrative Procedure Act’.
The lawsuit says that the policy is causing ‘enormous backlogs, which will be difficult to recover from.’
The State Department recently revealed a backlog of 473,000 immigrant visa cases pending at the National Visa Center, which doesn’t included cases already at US Embassies and Consulates where people have not yet been interviewed or still gathering the required documents so they can be interviewed.
The backlog also doesn’t include petitions waiting for approval from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The AILA’s lawsuit argues that the Biden administration’s COVID-related visa restrictions have created a ‘virtual moratorium on immigration and temporary migration from many countries’.
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