Human Rights First Files Amicus in Support of U.S.-Affiliated Iraqi Refugees

Washington, D.C.—Yesterday, Human Rights First filed an amicus curiae brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco in the case of Hawaii v. Trump in support of the thousands of Iraqi refugees who worked with the U.S. military, government, contractors, NGOs, and the media, who are now in danger due to their service. The brief was prepared by Dechert LLP, led by Eric Brunstad in the firm’s Hartford, Connecticut office.

“There are approximately 60,000 U.S.-affiliated Iraqis eligible for resettlement in the Untied States, who will now be stranded in dangerous situations for months or years because of President Trump’s inhumane policy. These individuals do have bona fide relationships with U.S. entities and must be exempt from the administration’s ban,” said Human Rights First’s Hardy Vieux. “It is critical for our national security that we honor our commitment to the brave Iraqis who risked their lives alongside Americans.”

The Supreme Court’s June 2017 decision on the Trump Administration’s refugee ban defined a bona fide relationship to a U.S. person as being “close familial” ties, and to an entity as “formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course.” The administration claims, however, that “bona fide relationship” does not include resettlement agencies or U.S.-affiliated Iraqis, who, under the bipartisan law that made them eligible for resettlement in the United States, only did so because of their close ties to the United States. In other words, Congress made U.S.-affiliated Iraqis eligible for resettlement in the United States because of their bona fide relationship to the country they helped protect. But, in the administration’s view, no such relationship ever existed.

Soon after the Supreme Court’s decision, the Trump Administration issued guidelines regarding what constitutes a close familial relationship with a U.S. person. The administration’s definition excluded grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Not long after this announcement, the state of Hawaii challenged the Trump Administration’s narrow guidelines. On July 13, 2017, the U.S. District Court in Hawaii sided with the plaintiffs and expanded the definition of a bona fide relationship.The court expanded the definition of what constitutes a close familial relationship to a U.S. person to include grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, and other relatives.  The court also ruled that individuals that have been fully vetted and given assurances from a resettlement agency satisfy the “formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course” requirement of having a bona fide relationship to a U.S. entity.

Following the issuance of the Hawaii district court’s new guidelines of what qualifies as a bona fide relationship to a U.S. person or entity, the Trump Administration went to the Supreme Court to appeal this decision. On July 19, 2017, the Court upheld the district court’s interpretation of what constitutes a close familial relationship. But, in the same ruling, the Court paused the admission of refugees who have been given assurances from a resettlement agency. The Supreme Court required the administration to first seek redress in the Ninth Circuit appellate court. That issue is now before the Ninth Circuit.

The majority of refugees referred for and approved for U.S. resettlement already have family in the United States and many also have ties to U.S.-based voluntary resettlement agencies, faith-based groups, and other communities that have committed to co-sponsor refugees, as well as U.S.-based attorneys or legal assistance organizations.

Many Iraqis and their families who served the U.S. military, government, contractors, NGOs, and media, are now in danger due to that service. Congress gave these Iraqis direct access to the U.S. resettlement program through the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007 because of their relationships with the U.S. military and other U.S. entities. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been waiting for years already to be resettled.

The U.N. Refugee Agency reports that in 2016 there were over 65 million people displaced from their homes. Nearly half of them are children. On average, a person somewhere in the world is forced to flee their home every three seconds. And yet, refugees and asylum seekers are facing heightened threats under the Trump Administration, from executive orders to an emboldened detention and deportation force.


Published on August 4, 2017


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