NIAC Staff

NIAC Staff

NIAC Applauds 9th Circuit for Ruling Against Muslim Ban (Again)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Shayan Modarres
Email: smodarres@niacouncil.org
Phone: (407) 408-0494

Washington, D.C. – Shayan Modarres, legal counsel for the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), issued the following statement following the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the lower court ruling blocking President Trump’s third Muslim ban:

“We are reassured by the Ninth Circuit’s ruling today upholding Judge Watson’s decision to block President Trump’s third attempt at banning Muslims. Today marks another victory for democracy and fundamental American principles. The U.S. Constitution and the President’s attempts to achieve a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States simply cannot coexist.

“The Ninth Circuit has now been charged with upholding and defending our Constitution against this unconstitutional Muslim ban on two separate occasions. Both times they have answered the call by rejecting this administration’s attempts at banning Muslims.

“On the other hand, in the face of protests erupting in airports across the country, families being torn apart, weddings being postponed or canceled, and individuals being prevented from receiving much needed medical treatment, Congress has failed to act, and consequently, has allowed this unconstitutional expedition to ban Muslims to continue since January 27.

“We celebrate today’s victory which brings affected families and impacted communities one step closer to reunification. But we remain cognizant of the fight ahead. Congress must immediately act to defund this unconstitutional Muslim ban that tears families apart and makes America much less safe.

“In the same vein, we also call on Congress to immediately pass a clean DREAM Act and to terminate all other discriminatory Trump immigration policies. The promise of America does not belong to any one group. For this great American experiment to last, we must all feel welcomed and safe. The Congressional carelessness and neglect that has allowed our democracy to erode must end.”

NIAC Statement on Nikki Haley’s Missile Speech

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Reza Marashi
Phone: 202-386-6325
Email: info@niacouncil.org

Washington, DC – National Iranian American Council Research Director Reza Marashi issued the following statement regarding Ambassador Nikki Haley’s presentation at the Defense Intelligence Agency accusing Iran of supplying missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen:

“Ambassador Haley’s dearth of foreign policy experience is no excuse for her shambolic performance today. Rather than displaying the dignity and poise of America’s face at the United Nations, she had her Colin Powell 2003 moment, demonstrating that too many of our leaders have still not learned the lessons of the Iraq war disaster. This stunt is particularly galling as it comes on the same day that reports emerged that the U.S. secretly sent advanced weaponry into Syria that ended up in the hands of ISIS and are now a direct threat to American troops and allies.

“Contrary to Amb. Haley’s claims, the UN Secretary General’s report did not assert anything irrefutable or definitive about any Iranian violations. Instead, the report indicates that the United Nations is ‘still analyzing the information provided’ in reports from various nations. As is the case with so many claims from the Trump administration, it appears that the facts are being chosen to fit a predetermined narrative or policy goal.

“It is indisputable that more arms in the region will do nothing to advance peace. Iran should halt any weapons shipments that it is sending to the Houthis or other armed groups in the region. However, Iran alone cannot be expected to halt its fueling of its proxy war with Saudi Arabia, and is unlikely to do so through unilateral demands alone. Accordingly, the Trump administration should also end its direct support for the Saudi-led humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen and end its missile sales in the region that are arming some of the world’s worst despots. If Ambassador Haley and the Trump administration are truly concerned about Iran’s regional activities and missile program, they should pursue direct dialogue with Iran rather than repeat the same mistakes of the past.

“The U.S. support for the Saudi war in Yemen has not just produced mass human suffering in America’s name, it has empowered Iran in a country where it previously had very little influence. The Saudi-led debacle has also empowered al-Qaeda – the same al-Qaeda that attacked the United States on 9/11 with 15 Saudi nationals, and continues to plot attacks on the homeland today. Moreover, U.S. missile sales in a volatile region to the increasingly aggressive Saudi Arabia and the UAE have provided the Iranian government with a pretext to further develop its own missile program and cite U.S. military sales as justification.

“The Trump administration should immediately pursue bilateral and multilateral dialogue with the Iranian government on all issues of contention with no preconditions. The track record is clear. Talking about Iran with other countries only led to more missiles and more centrifuges in Iran during the Bush administration. Talking with Iran and other countries simultaneously produced compromises on missiles and less centrifuges under the Obama administration. Haley and her Republican colleagues in government would be wise to heed the words of Albert Einstein: ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

###

FAQ on Recent Supreme Court Decision on Muslim Ban 3

What Does Yesterday’s Supreme Court Decision Mean?

The Supreme Court issued a stay of the injunctions in the 9th Circuit and the 4th Circuit. What that means is that they have halted, or vacated, the lower courts’ blocks on the ban – or in other words, the Trump administration may temporarily enforce Muslim Ban 3.0. The Supreme Court did NOT make a determination on the merits of the cases or the constitutionality of the Muslim ban, so this is NOT a “final decision.” The case will still be heard in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on December 6th, our case will still be heard by the 4th Circuit in Richmond on December 8th, and there will be a decision by the two Courts of Appeal. If we get favorable decisions, the government may then appeal to the Supreme Court to make a final determination about the constitutionality of Muslim Ban 3.0.

My Family Member Has a Visa and is Scheduled to Travel to the U.S. How Will This Impact Them?

If your family member has a valid visa that has already been issued to them, that visa will not be revoked under Muslim Ban 3.0. However, it is important to note that a valid visa does not guarantee them entry. We fully expect that valid visa holders will be permitted to enter absent some other circumstances, but a risk of being blocked from entry does exist. Note, if you have been approved for a visa but are not in physical possession of it, your visa may now be rejected under the implementation of Muslim Ban 3.0.

It is a good idea to advise your family member to keep a phone nearby and to call you if they are facing any difficulties with entry into the United States. In the event that your family member has a valid visa and is detained or turned back at the airport, we urge you to contact NIAC immediately and notify us. Remember, if you or your family member has a green card or is a U.S. citizen, Muslim Ban 3.0 DOES NOT affect green card holders and U.S. citizens. If you are a dual national of Iran and another country, you will still be constrained by the HR158 Visa Waiver law which requires you to have a valid visa to enter the United States.

*** It is critically important to know your rights at the airport. For further information please consult this advisory: Know Your Rights at the Airport and the Border

Who is Currently Banned?

Unless you are applying for an F, M, or J visa as a student or visitor exchange, all visas (both immigrant and non-immigrant) are suspended indefinitely.

If you are covered by the ban while it is in effect, you may be able to apply for a hardship waiver under Muslim Ban 3.0 at the time of the visa interview. There is no set form or process for applying for case-by-case waivers, but generally, you could provide a letter to the consular official outlining:
1) Why denying entry into the U.S. would cause an undue hardship
2) That entry would not pose a national security threat or threat to public safety
3) Entry would be in the national interest of the United States
Muslim Ban 3.0 could be blocked again, so it is critical to continue checking NIAC’s website and communications for the latest updates on our case before the 4th Circuit, and for updates on the current status of the Muslim Ban as a whole.

Do I Still Need to Prove a Bona Fide Relationship?

The ‘bona fide relationship’ standard does not apply after the initial October 18 deadline under Muslim Ban 3.0. All immigrant and non-immigrant visas to Iranian nationals are suspended with the exception of F, M and J visas, and case-by-case waivers granted by consular officers.

How Long Will the Ban be in Effect under the SCOTUS Order?

Under its terms, the Supreme Court’s Order will terminate once a Court of Appeals strikes down Muslim Ban 3.0 and it is appealed to the Supreme Court. Whether or not the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, yesterday’s Order allowing the Trump administration to enforce Muslim Ban 3.0 will terminate automatically. If the Courts do not side with the Plaintiffs, then the Court of Appeals decisions upholding the Muslim ban will control until the Plaintiffs appeal to the Supreme Court.

In short, the Muslim Ban will not disappear this year or next year, and we will need to continue fighting back against all aspects of this overarching policy objective of this administration: to ban Muslims, and by and large, Iranians. It remains unclear whether the Supreme Court will agree to hear the case in the event plaintiffs are victorious in the Court of Appeal, or if they will allow the decisions of the Courts of Appeal to stand without intervention.

How Can I Help Defeat This Discriminatory Ban?

Tell Congress to stop Trump’s Muslim ban by clicking here and taking action today.

Sanders Calls for Sanctions Relief to Assist Iran Earthquake Recovery

Thank you, Bernie!

On behalf of the National Iranian American Council and the Iranian-American community, we express our deepest gratitude to Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for spearheading a letter, signed by four of his colleagues, to Secretary Rex Tillerson urging that restrictions and sanctions impeding aid to earthquake victims in Iran be eased. Sanctions on Iran have significantly limited the ability of Americans to send relief to the people of Iran in their hour of need. The letter was signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Al Franken (D-MN).

The Senators hope that the Trump administration will follow the example of the Bush and Obama administrations, which both eased sanctions after massive earthquakes hit Iran. According to the letter, “Despite decades of animosity and no formal diplomatic relations, the United States has routinely offered to help the Iranian people in times of need. This time should be no different.”

You can read the letter below:

View as PDF

November 16, 2017

The Honorable Rex Tillerson
Secretary
U.S. Department of State
2201 C St. NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Tillerson:

We write today concerning the recent earthquake that struck Iran on November 12. The latest reports indicate over 500 dead and thousands wounded, making this earthquake the world’s deadliest of the year. We urge you temporarily waive any existing restrictions that would impede relief donations in order to speed the delivery of aid.

While the earthquake affected both Iran and Iraq, most of the casualties are on the Iranian side of the border. After earthquakes in 2003 and 2012, the United States demonstrated its compassion and goodwill by offering assistance to the Iranian people and allowing private relief donations. The administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama both temporarily waived sanctions, and the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued general licenses to simplify aid delivery.

Under the Bush administration, an OFAC license authorized U.S. persons to provide cash donations to nongovernmental organizations, U.S. and non-U.S., assisting with relief efforts in Iran. At the time, OFAC also worked with aid organizations to clarify rules on donations of food and medicine and which Iranian entities could receive aid and eased banking constraints to ensure the timely receipt of donations in Iran. While we understand that a general license issued by OFAC in 2013 allows for U.S. nongovernment organization to deliver aid to Iran, we urge you make it easier for U.S. citizens to contribute to nongovernment organizations not based in the United States that are currently providing relief aid to earthquake victims in Iran.

Despite decades of animosity and no formal diplomatic relations, the United States has routinely offered to help the Iranian people in times of need. This time should be no different. We ask that you direct the Department of State to assist in aid efforts and to coordinate such efforts with OFAC and other relevant agencies in order to ensure aid arrives quickly.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your timely response.
Sincerely,

BERNARD SANDERS
United States Senator

ELIZABETH WARREN
United States Senator

AL FRANKEN
United States Senator

THOMAS CARPER
United States Senator

DIANNE FEINSTEIN
United States Senator

FAQ on Iranian Earthquake Relief

As Iranian Americans, our hearts go out to all of those who were impacted by yesterday’s tragic earthquake that struck near the Iran-Iraq border. Initial reporting indicates that it is the deadliest earthquake of 2017, with hundreds dead and thousands injured, and many more who have lost everything. Like with prior earthquakes in Iran, the recovery and rebuilding is likely to be difficult.

Given the comprehensive trade embargo on Iran, Americans are likely to have questions regarding whether they will be able to assist in recovery efforts. While there are restrictions to navigate, the Treasury Department has licensed U.S. citizens to engage in certain activities to assist relief efforts in Iran following natural disasters. Below, we have detailed a brief Q&A, which we will update as the situation unfolds and we learn more about ongoing relief efforts.

The National Iranian American Council urges the Treasury Department to closely examine whether additional steps are needed to ensure that Americans can effectively contribute to relief efforts, and to issue any additional licenses necessary to ensure that U.S. sanctions do not stand in the way of urgent relief.

Frequently Asked Questions:

I am a resident of the United States and I want to help out with relief efforts in Iran, but don’t know if I can or how I can.  How can I help out with the earthquake relief?

While the United States imposes a comprehensive trade embargo with Iran, you can lawfully engage in certain activities to help out relief efforts related to the earthquake in Iran. You can do the following:

  • You can donate food, clothing, or medicine to Iran, provided that the donations are meant to relieve human suffering and are not directed to the Government of Iran, an Iranian bank, or any other restricted parties.  
     
  • You can make donations to a U.S. non-governmental organization (“NGO”) engaged in the provision of humanitarian services in or related to Iran, including in relief and reconstruction efforts related to the earthquake. U.S. persons would not be permitted to send funds directly to non-U.S. charitable organizations specifically intending those funds to be used for relief efforts in Iran.
     
  • You can seek license authorization from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) to engage in any other humanitarian-related activities related to the relief efforts in Iran.   
     

I want to help out, but am nervous about running afoul of U.S. sanctions laws.  Are there things that I definitely cannot do to support the relief efforts in Iran?

Yes. The United States imposes a comprehensive trade embargo with Iran, so most transactions between the two countries are prohibited absent an applicable exemption or license authorization. Those activities outlined above are either exempt from the trade embargo or are otherwise authorized. However, certain activities remain prohibited. For instance, the following activities remain prohibited under U.S. law:

  • You cannot send funds directly to Iranian charitable organizations absent prior license authorization from OFAC.  Such activity is currently prohibited under U.S. law and could expose you to civil or criminal liability as a result.
     
  • You cannot send goods or technologies to Iran to help out with relief efforts other than those that fall under the OFAC exemption or those that are licensed by OFAC.  The export of any prohibited goods or technologies to Iran is prohibited – even if such goods or technologies are intended for use in aiding relief efforts related to the earthquake in Iran.

Should I contact a lawyer before deciding to send funds or make a donation to Iran?

Because the U.S. trade embargo with Iran is exceptionally broad and prohibits most dealings between the two countries – including what would be regarded as innocuous – it is always a good idea to speak to legal counsel before engaging in a transaction in or related to Iran.  However, due to the obvious need to act expediently to help out with relief efforts in Iran at this time, it would not necessarily be unreasonable to rely on the representations of a U.S.-based NGO providing humanitarian-related services to Iran that they are acting in compliance with U.S. sanctions laws.   

I am an American and saw a fundraiser for earthquake relief efforts on social media. Should I donate?
 
This depends both on what the funds will be used for and the credibility of the campaign. If the fundraiser is seeking donations for an Iranian or non-U.S. charity, you should NOT donate. If the fundraiser is for a U.S. organization that is planning relief efforts in line with U.S. sanctions regulations, you can consider donating to the campaign. However, you should also consider giving to U.S.-based organizations directly rather than using a social media platform.
 

Which U.S. charitable organizations might be planning relief efforts in Iran?

The following U.S. organizations have responded to previous natural disasters in Iran and are planning relief efforts in response to the 2017 earthquake:

We will update this list as additional information becomes available.

Muslim Ban 3.0 Disproportionately Impacts Iranians

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) estimates that Iranians will account for approximately 62% of those impacted by updates to the Muslim Ban.

How did we come to this conclusion?

We examined data published by the State Department and found the number of non-immigrant visas issued for each country included in the current ban. However, the current version of the ban does not apply equally to all countries included. Therefore we looked at the specific conditions and types of visas permitted for each country included. For example, in 2016 non-immigrant visas were issued to 28,822 Iranians and 4,368 of those were student visas (F/J/ M). Since the latest iteration of the Muslim Ban creates an exception for these visa categories we subtracted 4,368 from the total of 28,822 when calculating what proportion of those impacted by the terms of the new ban would be Iranian. In calculating the figures below we excluded Somalia because non-immigrant visas are still permitted. We also excluded Venezuela because only certain government officials and their family members are banned. A more detailed explanation of our calculation is shown at the bottom of this page.

What does this calculation tell us and what does it not tell us?

This is not meant to serve as a probability or statistical likelihood. This is a simple calculation and does not account for several variables. It assumes that visa applications and acceptance rates for 2017 will be identical for those in 2016. Of course, this will likely not be the case for various political and economic reasons. Some individuals from banned countries may choose to self-select out of the process and not even apply in the first place. This calculation also does not account for increased vetting procedures and assumes that visa applicants for permitted categories will be treated in the same way and accepted at the same rates as in 2016. However, what this calculation clearly demonstrates is that based on recent trends Iranians are highly likely to be disproportionately impacted by the current version of the ban.

What are the results?

For those interested our calculation went as follows: 

451 (visa categories excluded for Chad) + 24,454 (visa categories excluded for Iran) + 1,406 (visa categories excluded for Libya) + 100 (visa categories excluded for N. Korea) + 8,738 (visa categories excluded for Syria) + 3,786 (visa categories excluded for Yemen) = 38,935
 
24,454 (visa categories excluded for Iran)/38,935 (visa categories excluded for all banned countries) =.62 
 
In other words, if the current provisions of the ban were applied to the number of non-immigrant visas issued  for 2016 to citizens of the currently banned countries then 62% of those impacted would be from Iran. 
 
Raw data:
Chad B1/B2 – 451
Iran – 28,822-4,368
Iran Student visas (F, J, M): 4,368
Libya B1/B2 – 1,406
North Korea – 100
Syria – 8,738

Yemen tourist and business tourist (B1/B2)-3,786

Source: https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/law-and-policy/statistics/non-immigrant-visas.html

      
 
 

PBS NewsHour: Iranian Americans in limbo after Trump’s new travel rules

Star-Telegram: ‘Devastating’: Travel rules leave Iranian-Americans in limbo

Washington Post: Trump probably won’t ditch the Iran deal. Here’s why.

What you need to know about Trump’s Muslim Ban 3.0

The Question & Answers page is designed to answer all your questions in regards to Trump’s Muslim Ban 3.0. If there are questions that are not listed here, please contact NIAC’s Legal Counsel Shayan Modarres at smodarres@niacouncil.org. Please note that this page will be continuously updated as the situation evolves.

Who is Affected by Muslim Ban 3.0?

The entry of immigrants from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Chad and North Korea are suspended indefinitely.

The entry of nonimmigrants from Iran is also suspended, with the exception of student visas (F and M visas), or exchange visitor visas (J visas). Travelers entering under these three visa categories will be subject to enhanced screening and vetting requirements.

Certain nonimmigrants from Chad, Libya, Yemen and Venezuela will be permitted to enter, and Somali nationals will be subject to additional scrutiny.

The entry of nonimmigrants from Syria and North Korea is suspended without exception.

Will Green Card Holders Be Affected?

Under the terms of the proclamation, entry suspensions will not apply to lawful permanent residents of the United States, commonly referred to as LPR’s or Green Card holders. The suspension of entry will also not apply to persons inside the U.S. or persons with valid visas before October 18, and travelers with other travel documents such as a transportation letter or advance parole document. The language of the proclamation is unclear whether the exception under Section 6(c), providing that valid visas will not be retroactively revoked, will allow travelers to enter or will simply allow them to maintain valid visas while still being barred from entry.

How Will Muslim Ban 3.0 Affect Dual Nationals?

Dual nationals who are traveling on a passport issued by a country other than the eight covered countries will not be affected. So if you are a citizen of an EU country, for example, and also hold an Iranian passport, as long as you are entering the United States on a passport issued by the EU country you will not be affected by the proclamation. However, nationals of the eight banned countries under Muslim Ban 3.0 will still need a valid F, M, or J visa. Dual Iranian nationals with visas issued prior to October 18 will not have their visas revoked, but it remains to be seen whether they will be permitted to enter the United States, as the language of the proclamation is unclear on this point.

The Proclamation Says That Visas Will Not Be Revoked. But Will Visa Holders Be Able to Enter the U.S. if They, For Instance, Possess a Non-Student or Exchange Visa That Was Issued Before This Proclamation?

The language of the proclamation is unclear on this point. Under Section 6(c), valid visas issued prior to October 18 will not be revoked. However, it remains to be seen whether travelers possessing valid visas issued prior to October 18, that are not F, M, or J visas, will be permitted to enter.

My Fiancee is Awaiting Her Visa and She is Scheduled For an Interview. She is an Iranian National. How Does This Affect Our Situation?

Under the language of the Proclamation, as long as a valid visa is issued and possessed by the traveler before midnight on October 18, 2017, the proclamation will not affect that person. So if your fiance does not have her interview, and does not get her visa in hand prior to October 18, they will not be permitted to enter. After October 18, no Iranian travelers will be permitted entry unless they are entering as a green card holder, or they have a valid F, M, or J class visa. The language of the proclamation is unclear whether the exception under Section 6(c), providing that valid visas will not be retroactively revoked, will allow travelers to enter or will simply allow them to maintain valid visas while still being barred from entry.

My Aunt Is a Dual Citizen and She Just Got Her Visa. Will She Be Affected?

Generally, dual citizens are not affected by Muslim Ban 3.0 if they are traveling on a passport issued by a country other than the eight banned countries. Also, as long as she has a valid visa issued prior to the October 18 effective date, then she is exempt from the ban of entry under Section 6 of the proclamation. Please note, however, the language of the proclamation is unclear whether the exception under Section 6(c), providing that valid visas will not be retroactively revoked, will allow travelers to enter or will simply allow them to maintain valid visas while still being barred from entry. This remains to be seen.

My Iranian Grandmother Usually Visits Us Every Two Years. She Gets a Tourist Visa. Does This Mean That She Will Not Be Able to Come Anymore?

In short, she will not be able to enter the United States going forward. The entry of all non-immigrant Iranian nationals, including visitors and tourists, is suspended indefinitely and there is no set expiration date for Muslim Ban 3.0.

What Happens to the Existing Lawsuits Against Trump’s Original Muslim ban? Are they All Irrelevant Now? Can a New Legal Challenge Be Brought Against This Ban?

The cases before the Supreme Court challenging Executive Order 13780 are likely not moot, and will proceed with oral arguments scheduled on October 10th. New legal challenges against the current Muslim Ban 3.0 proclamation can be filed and are likely to be filed. NIAC is actively exploring the possibility of bringing litigation to challenge it.

Is This Permanent? Will Banned Classes of Iranians Never Be Able to Come As a Result of This Ban?

Muslim Ban 3.0 does not have a set expiration date and is indefinite by its terms. NIAC is actively pursuing all legal remedies, including a lawsuit seeking judicial intervention to prevent the administration from implementing the ban. We are also actively working to challenge the administrative Muslim ban that has been implemented through “extreme vetting” measures since May that have sent visas issued to Iranian nationals plummeting. NIAC will continue to work tirelessly to prevent this ban from perpetual implementation.

AlJazeera: Donald Trump denounces Iran over nuclear deal