A Brooklyn federal judge has ordered immigration authorities to print up visas that were promised to roughly 30 Yemeni nationals, but then denied after President Trump’s latest travel ban.
After officials already gave the green light on applications to enter the United States, Judge Brian Cogan said the government needed to honor “its representations to prospective immigrants” — and do it quickly.
He gave the feds a June 12 deadline to “provide a valid printed visa” to the Yemenis stranded in Djibouti, who have family waiting for them in the states, mostly in New York City.
Many of the recipients are children and senior citizens, their lawyers told the Daily News.
The visa recipients were snagged by the latest iteration of Trump’s travel ban, which clamps down on entries from a handful of Muslim-majority countries, including Yemen.
After Trump scrapped earlier versions of the ban, the newest version is now being challenged in the Supreme Court.
One section of the disputed travel ban says it doesn’t apply to visas issued before it went into effect. Cogan said that between various court fights, the ban became operative in early December.
The Yemenis in the lurch were told months earlier that their visas had been approved, but the immigration documents had yet to be physically printed.
The families left Yemen, selling off everything they owned, to pick up visas supposedly waiting for them in Djibouti, an East African country on the other side of the Red Sea. They had to make the trek because American consular services in Yemen are “indefinitely suspended,” court papers said. The American embassy in Djibouti is one of the places handling Yemeni applications.
Consular officers told the people their applications were now refused because of the ban, according to Cogan’s Tuesday ruling.
Cogan said he was merely making authorities “undertake the printing of the visas which the approval notice said would occur.”
The judge said if he didn’t step in, the people fleeing war-torn Yemen would “remain in their untenable position.”
Attorney Julie Goldberg told The News “the embassy has zero control, zero power.“ She said the decision to tie up visas emanated from Trump officials in Washington who, she said, tried to hide their work behind legal doctrines that consular decisions couldn’t be challenged.
Meanwhile, the waylaid visa recipients are in limbo. “Some are in camps, some are in one room,” she said of her clients.
Goldberg said she plans to beef up the suit with other examples of more Yemenis, as well as Iranians, stranded across the globe after visa approvals.
Cogan cautioned his ruling wasn’t a clear win for the Yemenis.
Immigration authorities still had “broad authority to revoke visas” — it’s just that they can’t pull back the visas the way they did here, he said.
Government lawyers said Thursday they’ll be asking Cogan to rethink his order. One of the reasons is officials haven’t finished their security checks for most of the applicants, they said. The order, without any changes, “would require the government to issue visas to aliens who have not been adequately vetted,” according to a filing.
Goldberg said her clients all cleared security checks.
A Brooklyn U.S. Attorney spokesman declined to comment.
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