NIAC, IAAB, and IABA Issue Joint Statement on the Case of Bijan Ghaisar

The following statement was issued jointly by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB), and the Iranian American Bar Association (IABA) on developments to the case involving Bijan Ghaisar.

On November 17, 2017, 25 year old Bijan Ghaisar was tragically shot and killed by two U.S. Park Police officers in Virginia. Bijan, who was unarmed, was pursued by the officers following a minor traffic incident and shot nine times in an encounter that should have easily been resolved without deadly force. He died in the hospital ten days later.

Now, after more than 500 days of federal officials dodging accountability, the names of the officers involved—Lucas Vinyard and Alejandro Amaya—have finally been identified by court order in the discovery phase of the Ghaisar family’s lawsuit against the U.S. government for excessive use of deadly force. Given the damning video surveillance, we call for accountability, including the immediate firing of the officers involved.

As organizations serving and representing tens of thousands of Iranian Americans, we have been deeply concerned by the lack of accountability from the U.S. Park Police, Department of Justice and FBI surrounding the investigation into the shooting of Bijan. Delayed justice is no justice at all, and tangible steps must be taken to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future at the hands of these two officers who engaged in deadly excessive force. Doing so is an imperative first step to ensure public safety and pursue justice for the Ghaisar family.

While this is a critical step, it would be insufficient without further efforts by the FBI and DOJ to release a full and public report on the shooting, and help facilitate a favorable resolution of the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the Ghaisar family. We also join a number of officials—including Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA)—in condemning the FBI for failing to answer questions into the 16-month long investigation put forth by former Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley.

Refusing to provide transparency into the investigation, and failing to hold the responsible parties to account, greatly risks an erosion in the public’s trust of the justice system, and continues to deny justice to the Ghaisar family. The only acceptable outcome for the investigation into this case is full transparency into the findings, and the immediate firing of the responsible officers.

IAAB v. Trump Muslim Ban Plaintiffs File Petition with the United States Supreme Court

Washington, DC – On Friday, the plaintiffs in Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB) v. Trump joined plaintiffs in two other cases in filing a petition for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. The parties have asked the Court to review their cases and are seeking an expedited briefing schedule so that the cases may be heard along with Hawaii v. Trump, another challenge to President Trump’s Muslim ban, that is set for argument on April 25, 2018.

On February 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in IAAB, proclaiming that Muslim Ban 3.0 is “unconstitutionally tainted with animus towards Islam.”  Since the Supreme Court is reviewing the Hawaii case this term, the IAAB plaintiffs have asked for review so that the compelling issues raised by their case, including how the plaintiffs have been affected by the ban, will be presented to the Court.

IAAB v. Trump was the first major lawsuit brought against President Trump’s Muslim ban 3.0. The plaintiffs in this action are Iranian Alliances Across Borders, an Iranian-American diaspora community organization, and six individual plaintiffs, all of whom are United States citizens or lawful permanent residents with Iranian relatives or spouses who will be blocked from coming to the United States.  The plaintiffs in IAAB v. Trump are represented by Muslim Advocates, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Covington & Burling LLP, and the lawsuit was prepared in consultation with the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).

The National Iranian American Council is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the voice of Iranian Americans and promoting greater understanding between the American and Iranian people.

Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.

Iranian Alliances Across Borders is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan organization founded in 2003. IAAB addresses issues of the Iranian diaspora by facilitating community building, developing ways to better understand what it means to be part of a diaspora community, and empowering members of the Iranian diaspora community to enhance connections with their new communities as well as maintain connections with their root community.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

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We’re Already Taking Trump To Court Over Muslim Ban 3.0

Like a blooper reel from a racist reality television show starring Donald Trump, we are now on Muslim ban, take three. The Sept. 24, 2017 presidential proclamation marks the third attempt at fulfilling a flawed campaign promise of a “total and complete shutdown of Muslim from entering the United States.

But like his previous attempts, this one just got challenged in court as well.

Just hours ago, the National Iranian American Council and our partners (Muslim AdvocatesIAAB and Americans United for Separation of Church and State) filed the first lawsuit in the country challenging the Sept. 24 proclamation. The complaint filed in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Greenbelt Division ― titled Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB) v. Trump ― seeks to challenge the constitutionality of the Sept. 24 proclamation.

It’s Still A Muslim Ban

Sure, not every Muslim-majority country is included in this ban. But Muslim-majority countries remain the only ones impacted in any meaningful way, and the intent of fulfilling a campaign promise to ban Muslims has not changed.

Three countries were added to the newest iteration of the Muslim ban: North Korea, Venezuela and Chad. In 2016, only 1,355 nonimmigrant visas were issued to nationals of Chad, a Muslim-majority country, and a grand total of 100 nonimmigrant visas were issued to North Korea. A majority of the 156,361 visas issued to Venezuelans in 2016 will continue to be permitted into the United States, because only Venezuelan government officials and their families are barred from visas.

Syria accounted for 9,096 nonimmigrant visas issued in 2016, Yemen 5,203, Libya 2,307 and Somalia 451.

If 2016 visa statistics are any indicator, Iran accounted for 29,404 ― the lion’s share of nonimmigrant visas ― and is among the broadest categorically banned countries under the third Muslim ban.

So although North Korea and Venezuela were added, both non-Muslim majority countries, their inclusion is insignificant, because the newest Muslim ban would only affect about 100 North Koreans and a handful of Venezuelan government officials. The rest of the families affected will likely be Muslim and will likely be Iranian.

So can we still call this proclamation a Muslim ban? Absolutely, because it very much is. 

The Multiple Muslim Bans Do Nothing To Keep America Safe 

The Trump administration had more than 90 days to conduct a review of threats to our national security from abroad. They were not able to produce a shred of evidence that would indicate a credible threat to national security from Iranian nationals, or citizens of the other countries targeted. That is because since as far back as 1975, no one in the United States has been killed in a terrorist attack by someone from the seven countries targeted by Trump’s original Muslim ban: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. 

The multiple Muslim bans, and Donald Trump’s racially charged rhetoric, has actually contributed to making America less safe ― 2017 has marked a dramatic rise in hate crimes.  

Sudan Was Able To Buy Its Way Out Of Muslim Ban #3

Case in point, consider the case of Sudan. The African country is wrestling with a significant Al-Qaeda presence, yet it was able to avoid being included in the third Muslim ban despite being targeted by executive order #1 and #2. Why?

According to investigative journalist Ryan Grim, the explanation lies in aggressive lobbying by the United Arab Emirates in return for Sudan sending thousands of mercenaries to help the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s war efforts in Yemen. By providing mercenary support, Sudan effectively purchased their way out of inclusion in Muslim ban #3 – and just like that, the national security threat that Trump claimed Sudan presented in executive order #1 and #2 disappeared.

This clearly isn’t about America’s safety. It’s about Trump’s ego and his promise to his base to ban Muslims. If President Trump was serious about addressing terror threats and threats to national security, he would take seriously the bipartisan Committee on Combating Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel’s findings from 2015, which did not list Trump-targeted countries like Iran in the top five countries from which foreign fighters originate. He would take seriously foreign intervention in our elections or threats from global warming and climate change. 

But he has not taken any of these threats to American safety seriously, yet, because he is obsessed and consumed with fulfilling his promise to ban Muslims without regard for how it will tear apart American families.

Why We Are Suing… Again

Over the last nine months, Iranian-Americans and other targeted communities have been forced to become experts in immigration law and familiarize themselves with new immigration laws and policies that seem to change every few months. They don’t do it because they love studying the law in their spare time – they do it because they have to and because being reunited with their families depends on their knowledge of how to navigate the new laws.

The Sept. 24 proclamation, in many respects, is the most cruel and absurd of the three Muslim bans and is most detrimental to the Iranian community in particular. An estimated 62 percent of individuals affected by the third Muslim ban will be Iranian.

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and our partners filed this lawsuit challenging Muslim ban #3, because what has remained constant throughout the last eight months – aside from the glaring congressional inaction and passivity in the face of an assault on bedrock American values and principles – is the racial and religious animus that motivates President Trump to persist with new attempts at banning Muslims.

It has taken the Trump administration three takes to figure out how to legally implement a Muslim ban – because they still have not figured out it is unconstitutional to implement a Muslim ban. NIAC and our partners will be there to serve as a periodic reminder that a Muslim ban is un-American and unconstitutional.

This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

Statement on Lawsuit Against Muslim Ban 3.0

For Immediate Release
 Contact: Shayan Modarres
202-379-1638
smodarres@niacouncil.org

Press Call Tomorrow on Two Lawsuits Filed on the Muslim Ban Expansion

Washington, DC – Today, Muslim Advocates, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Covington & Burling LLP, in collaboration with the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC) and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, announced two lawsuits against the Trump administration’s latest efforts to unlawfully block the entry of Muslims into the United States and carry out President Trump’s long-promised Muslim ban.

For more information, please join a press call tomorrow, October 3 at 11am EST. Dial in 866-342-8591; Passcode “Muslim Ban 3”

About the Suits:

Iranian Alliances Across Borders v. Trump

Iranian Alliances Across Borders v. Trump is the first major lawsuit to be filed against the latest iteration of the Muslim ban. It was filed in the U.S. District Court of the District of Maryland, Southern Division, on behalf of the Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB) and six individual plaintiffs, all of whom are United States citizens or lawful permanent residents with Iranian relatives who will be blocked from coming to the United States when the latest Muslim ban goes fully into effect on October 18.

This legal action challenges President Trump’s September 24, 2017, Presidential Proclamation—which imposes broad restrictions on entry into the United States for nationals of several predominantly Muslim countries—as a violation of the United States Constitution and other federal laws.  

Brennan Center for Justice v. U.S. Department of State

Brennan Center for Justice v. U.S. Department of State was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to compel the Trump Administration to release critically important details on how it came to choose which countries would be covered by Muslim Ban 3.0.  

Over the summer, federal agencies purportedly conducted a worldwide review of visa issuance and data collection processes, the results of which determined which countries were included on the final list of banned countries in President Trump’s September 24 Proclamation. The process and results of that review have been completely hidden from public view, yet they are being used to determine the fate of millions of individuals across the world.

In July, a number of civil rights organizations, including the Brennan Center for Justice, Muslim Advocates, and Americans United, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on various “extreme vetting” measures enacted by the administration, including information regarding the worldwide review process. The administration has yet to comply with any part of that request, even though the statutory deadline for a response has long since passed. This litigation seeks immediate disclosure of just one element of this multi-part request: the report on the basis of which the Muslim Ban 3.0 countries were selected.  

According to Johnathan Smith, legal director of Muslim Advocates, “President Trump’s latest Muslim ban remains as unjust and unlawful as the prior versions. Banning people because of their religion or national origin doesn’t make our country safer; all it does is tear apart families and propagate bigotry and discrimination.  Through these two legal filings today, we seek to hold this administration accountable and make clear that no one  – including the President – is above the law. You shouldn’t have to file a lawsuit to see your fiancé or grandmother, but that’s what we have to do so our plaintiffs can be reunited with their loved ones.”

According to Shayan Modarres, legal counsel for the National Iranian American Council: “Iranian Americans, and other affected communities, have had to familiarize themselves with ambiguous new laws and policies every few months because of this president’s obsession with fulfilling a flawed campaign promise to ban Muslims from the United States. This erosion of fundamental American values must stop. We are using every tool and legal remedy available to us to stop xenophobia and bigotry from becoming the official immigration policy of the United States.”

According to Mana Kharraz, Executive Director of Iranian Alliances Across Borders: “Over the past year, our members have been subject to discrimination in their schools and subways. We have been separated from our loved ones and had to endure this administration’s continued campaign to divide our families. Our youth are witness to a rise in hatred that puts our country in jeopardy of ushering in a dark chapter of bigotry becoming US policy. We have a right to exist and be protected in the US without becoming pawns in an agenda that has little to do with safety and security.”

According to Richard B. Katskee, legal director of Americans United: “This is the third time that President Trump has tried to implement the Muslim ban, and it’s still designed to exclude people because of their religious beliefs. The only thing that’s really different here is that the Trump administration is now trying to make this appalling ban permanent. Religious freedom is about fairness. When we treat one group of people unfairly because of their religious beliefs, that’s a threat to the religious freedom of all Americans.”

According to Faiza Patel of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University:“We need more information on the president’s decision to blacklist certain countries. Given his repeated insistence that he wants to ban Muslims from the United States, we cannot take his word that the most recent version of the ban is motivated by national security considerations rather than prejudice.”  

Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.

The National Iranian American Council is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the voice of Iranian Americans and promoting greater understanding between the American and Iranian people.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is a nonpartisan law and policy institute that seeks to improve our systems of democracy and justice.

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