Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Promise of America? (The Torch)

The Promise of America?

MAY 8, 2018

Ramla Sahid on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Early in the morning late last month, while it was drizzling, cold, and still a little dark, I stood with a dozen others on the steps of this country’s highest court feeling a lot of anxiety and some hope as I waited in line to get a seat for the oral arguments in Trump’s latest Muslim ban.

When we were ushered into the gallery of the Supreme Court of the United States on April 25, 2018, I sat down on an observer bench near the mid-right corner of the audience and felt the weight of that room. Sitting there, apprehensively waiting for the oral arguments in Trump v Hawaii to begin, knowing how consequential the ultimate decision would be, I reminded myself that the fight for justice and freedom is a constant, and that whatever the result, our task is to keep that fight alive. As a former refugee from Somalia, one of the banned Muslim-majority countries, my foremost thought was, “The promise of America should be open to every human being, regardless of how they pray and how they worship.” My fear, though, was that the justices might not be taking that promise into account.

The presidential proclamation being reviewed by the Court that day was Trump’s latest directive on this issue, announced in September 2017, similar to his two previous executive orders that federal courts barred from being implemented because they were clearly intended to express Trump’s unconstitutional hostility to Muslims. Those Muslim bans were discriminatory and illegal because they banned entire populations of people based upon their religion (using national origin as a proxy).

The September proclamation has the effect of indefinitely banning from entering the U.S. people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen — all Muslim-majority countries — and this ban is currently in effect. Its results are broken families, deferred dreams, lack of access to life-saving medical treatment, and a perversion of American principles and values. My own family fled the civil war in Somalia when I was five years old, so I know from firsthand experience what these thousands of families, students, academics, and skilled workers are experiencing, and I can imagine what it would mean to be told that the promise of America is no longer open to you.

The Trump administration’s lawyer, Noel Francisco, argued that latest directive was based on a lengthy “worldwide, multi-agency review,” but the president’s own tweets belie that fantasy. Even as the Court was considering whether to hear this case, Trump tweeted, in response to the September 15, 2017, bombing of a London subway, “The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific — but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!” During his campaign for the presidency, Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Though given many opportunities to backtrack on that declaration, he never has, and as recently as April 30th reiterated that there was “no reason to apologize.” This statement alone undercuts Francisco’s argument that the president had disavowed his campaign rhetoric. It’s hard to predict the outcome, but I hope that the justices reject this unilateral effort to legislate unfounded fear, discrimination, and bigotry.

But there is hope. Hope because I was able to be there to bear witness to this historic moment with my community of Muslim, Arab, South Asian, and African activists from all over the country, as well as allies supporting our communities’ call for religious freedom and fairness. Our presence was felt inside and outside. And the rally held outside the Supreme Court that morning replenished my energy.

Yes, we are being threatened in bold ways, and our communities are under constant assault. But this hasn’t happened spontaneously. In fact, this is the reality of America for far too many of its citizens and residents. So we do what we have always done in this country. We resist. We continue to educate and politicize our people and allies, we organize, and we build a more connected and accountable multiracial movement.

Ramla Sahid is executive director of Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans.


3 Important Points to Know about Texas’s DACA Lawsuit (The Torch)

3 Important Points to Know about Texas’s DACA Lawsuit

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Ignacia Rodriguez, NILC immigration policy advocate
MAY 4, 2018

On May 1, 2018, Texas and six other states filed a lawsuit against the federal government challenging the legality of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. They filed the case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, where it ended up being assigned to Judge Andrew Hanen. He’s the same judge who in 2014 issued an injunction that blocked the Obama administration’s expansion of the DACA program and the related Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, program.

Naturally, Texas’s latest lawsuit has created confusion and concerns about what it means for immigrant youth and the fight to protect immigrant families across the country.

Here are three important points to know about the Texas lawsuit:

1. Judge Hanen in Texas cannot undo the California and New York injunctions (currently in place) that protect DACA recipients from President Trump’s unlawful actions. Both court orders require U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to accept DACA renewal applications. Only the circuit courts of appeal corresponding to those states and the U.S. Supreme Court have the authority to undo either injunction. No case related to DACA is expected to go before the Supreme Court until after this summer. The Texas lawsuit does not change that situation.

2. USCIS is still accepting DACA renewal applications. If you are eligible to renew your DACA, we recommend that you apply to do so at this time. Here’s the reality: We don’t know what will happen next, so having DACA for an additional two years may provide some peace of mind for you and your family as all these DACA-related court cases make their ways through the courts.

3. Your voice and efforts are making a real difference. The states that filed the latest lawsuit in Texas are among the same states that sued to block the Obama administration’s expansion of DACA to protect additional immigrant youth as well as its creation of DAPA. DAPA would have allowed certain parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to apply for and receive temporary protection from deportation as well as work permits. That first lawsuit, which was filed in the same federal court district as the present one, became known as U.S. v. Texas after the Obama administration appealed Judge Hanen’s nationwide injunction blocking DAPA and expanded DACA.

The U.S. v Texas lawsuit against DAPA and DACA+ included 26 plaintiff states. The letter from some of these states threatening to sue the federal government if DACA were not terminated bore the signatures of state officials from only 9 states. The latest lawsuit was filed by only 7 of the 26 states that sued in U.S. v. Texas.

The progress we’ve made is clear. As support for protecting Dreamers and their families continues to grow, many states and localities are hearing our voices. In fact, state officials should keep in mind that the vast majority of Americans support DACA. This indisputable fact is a testament to the work of immigrant youth and their allies. Together we must continue highlighting the importance of the DACA program and pushing for congressional action to protect immigrant youth and their families. We need the Dream Act now!

FAQ: USCIS Is Accepting DACA Renewal Applications
VIDEO: How Does a Case Make it to the U.S. Supreme Court?


Government’s Supreme Court Argument Tries to Divorce from Trump’s Own Words and Record His Ban on Travel from Muslim-majority Countries (The Torch)

Government’s Supreme Court Argument Tries to Divorce from Trump’s Own Words and Record His Ban on Travel from Muslim-majority Countries

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Esther Sung, NILC staff attorney
APRIL 25, 2018

Today, after two executive orders, one presidential proclamation, and fifteen months of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court finally heard oral arguments on the legality of President Trump’s Muslim ban.

The current version of the ban blocks from entering the U.S. most travelers and immigrants from six Muslim-majority countries — Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen — although Chad was recently removed from this list after improving its “identity-management and information sharing practices.” The ban also blocks travelers and immigrants from North Korea and certain Venezuelan government officials and their families.

Despite having itself been blocked by two U.S. district courts, the ban has been in place since December 4, 2017, when the Supreme Court allowed it to go into effect while it was being litigated. The U.S. State Department recently reported that in the first month of the ban, only two out of 8,406 visa applicants directly impacted by the ban were granted waivers allowing them to enter the U.S.

Indeed, of particular concern to Justices Breyer and Sotomayor in today’s argument was the possibility that the ban’s waiver provisions are merely “window dressing.” Justice Breyer pointed out that a significant number of people seeking visas probably fit within the exemplars expressly identified in the presidential proclamation as potentially eligible for an exemption from the ban. Although both justices pressed the government to explain what mechanisms are in place to ensure that the ban’s promise that waivers are available “is, in fact, a real waiver process,” the government was unable to provide substantive information about the availability of waivers. The government was only able to represent that approximately 400 individuals have received waivers — but, as Justice Breyer pointed out, 400 is paltry in comparison to the 150 million people the proclamation bans from entering the U.S.

Instead, the government focused on defending the ban before the Court as the product of a “multi-agency worldwide review that applied neutral criteria.” Throughout its argument, the government took pains to distance the ban not only from its predecessor executive orders, but also from President Trump and the many anti-Muslim statements he has made throughout his candidacy and presidency.

Neal Katyal, representing the ban’s challengers, argued that if the Court adopts the expansive view of executive power advanced by the government, the Court will be giving the president the power to line-item veto any provision of the country’s immigration laws that he wants to override. He argued that the ban countermands Congress’s finely reticulated immigration scheme, violates the Immigration and Nationality Act’s prohibition against nationality-based discrimination in the issuance of immigrant visas, and denigrates Islam in violation of the First Amendment.

It was clear that the government’s strategy depended on stripping the ban of its history and context so that the government could divorce the ban from President Trump’s many anti-Muslim statements and thereby argue that the ban is a permissible exercise of executive power. But by doing so, the government could only duck and weave around the overwhelming evidence of the president’s anti-Muslim animus, rather than confronting it head-on.

Among those present for today’s argument were Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii; Karen Korematsu, the daughter of Fred Korematsu, the named plaintiff in Korematsu v. United States, which upheld the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans in World War II; and Lin-Manuel Miranda, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of the musical “Hamilton.” Friend-of-the-court briefs calling on the court to strike down the ban had been filed by retired government officials and military officers; various states and major cities and counties; Amazon, Facebook, and over a hundred other companies; Catholic bishops and numerous other clergy of several different religions; universities and other institutions of higher learning; and Karen Korematsu and other children of Japanese-Americans who were held in internment camps during World War II.

A recording of today’s argument is available here; a transcript of it is available here.


Trump’s Ban As Experienced by Yemeni-Americans (The Torch)

Trump’s Ban As Experienced by Yemeni-Americans

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Ibraham Qatabi, Center for Constitutional Rights
APRIL 25, 2018

Today the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on a legal challenge to President Trump’s travel ban, which bars nationals of several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. Countless lives lie in the balance of this decision.

In this post, I focus on the ban’s impact particularly on Yemeni-Americans and their families, as Yemen is one of the countries listed in the executive orders that initiated the ban. The ban denies U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents of Yemeni descent who are in the U.S. the right to be with their children, spouses, and other close relatives, many of whom are stranded in third countries as they transit out of the war in Yemen.

Yemenis in America: Who we are

Yemeni-Americans have been part of the American fabric for many generations. For more than a century, they have worked on railroads and in the steel and the automobile industry stretching from Buffalo and Lackawanna, New York, to Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan. Today they run small and midsize successful businesses from New York City in the east to Oakland, San Francisco, and Bakersfield, California, in the west. Yemeni-Americans have also historically maintained close ties with both the U.S. and Yemen, with families often going back and forth between the two countries.

The ban’s implementation

Since December 2017, the Center for Constitutional Rights and many other organizations have received reports that hundreds of U.S. citizens’ spouses and children were called to come to the U.S. embassy in Djibouti, where their passports were returned, along with a document stating that they’d been denied a U.S. visa and were not eligible for a waiver. The document also stated that this decision was “final.”

Yet Muslim Ban 3.0, the latest version of the Muslim ban, which is currently in effect and which was initiated by a presidential proclamation instead of an executive order, contains a provision for granting a waiver to certain people affected by the ban. A waiver would exempt from the ban the people to whom it is granted. To qualify for it, they would have to show that they would experience undue hardship if they were denied a visa, that their entry into the U.S. would be in the national interest, and that it would not pose a threat to national security or public safety.

The proclamation lists several examples of situations in which a waiver would be appropriate and assumes that consular officers will examine whether people are eligible for the waiver on a case-by-case basis. It is striking to me how many members of Yemeni-American families would seem to qualify for the waiver, based on the proclamation’s plain language. The Yemenis who have been denied visas are overwhelmingly immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. And due to the war in Yemen, most if not all of them experience hardship when denied reunification with their U.S.-based parents, children, or siblings. According to the United Nations, Yemen is considered “the world’s worst humanitarian disaster” in half a century.

Following the start of the war in Yemen, the U.S. embassy in San’aa, Yemen, was closed and all Yemeni visa petitions were transferred to U.S. consulates and embassies in other countries. As a result, these Yemeni relatives of Americans must travel to another country, usually Djibouti, to complete processing of their visa petitions. So not only are they stuck in limbo, they are often waiting for the bad news in third countries, far from their homes.

Thus, although the proclamation states that waivers are to be issued on a case-by-case basis and though it prohibits consular and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers from issuing waivers to groups or categories of applicants, the U.S. embassy in Djibouti has done exactly the opposite. It has issued en masse visa denials — to children, mothers, fathers, spouses, and other relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents seeking to reunite with their families in the U.S.

My own organization heard of more than a hundred visa denials. Some Yemenis had tales of bringing their children who needed immediate medical attention to the consular interviews; others came with a detailed waiver petition to demonstrate their qualifications for a waiver. Most, however, were not even given a chance to seek a waiver, as their interviews had taken place months prior to the decision. Some had been told that their visas were approved only to learn later that they’d been denied. In several cases we reviewed, some siblings had obtained a visa prior to the ban’s implementation, while others had not.

Nobody received a waiver.

The ban’s impact

To assess the impact of Trump’s ban and force some transparency into its seemingly arbitrary implementation, last month the Center for Constitutional Rights and a team from Yale Law School met with approximately 50 families in Djibouti — all U.S. citizens or their children, parents, or spouses. We hope to release our findings once we are able to process more thoroughly the information we gathered, including placing this recent crisis into the context of a much longer history of anti-Yemeni and anti-Muslim discrimination. For now, ahead of the Supreme Court argument, I feel it’s important to provide a few of the stories that stuck with me most, as a reminder of what’s at stake.

In one case, a three-year-old child had to be separated from his parents, who stayed behind in Djibouti while he was sent to the U.S. to be with extended family thousands of miles away. His mother was denied a visa.

In another case, a father had to choose between keeping his job in the U.S. or joining his stranded wife and children in Djibouti. When he was forced to choose the former, his children, who couldn’t understand, told him they felt abandoned by him.

And many families had to decide to return to war-torn Yemen after receiving rejections.

Trump’s ban has not only distressed Yemeni-Americans by separating families, it has created huge financial burdens. Many individuals were forced to leave their jobs or studies in the U.S. so they could support their spouses and children stranded in Djibouti, Egypt, and Malaysia. They were expecting to be in Djibouti for a few weeks and ended up being stranded for months, or in some cases a year. Life in Djibouti is expensive. The average monthly expense spending per family is about $3,000-5,000.

An uncertain future

Yemeni-Americans, like so many other impacted communities, are waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision. In Djibouti, everyone I met with wanted to know: If the Court strikes down the Muslim ban in its entirety, is the Court going to force the government to reopen the hundreds of cases that were denied because of the executive orders and presidential proclamation? Will they need to reapply and again wait an indefinite amount of time to reunite with their families? And if the Court upholds the ban, will they ever be able to reunite with their families?

Many of those I met with in Djibouti had high hopes that the Supreme Court justices will uphold the values of the U.S. Constitution, as lower courts across the nation have in these Muslim ban cases. They’ve closely followed the litigation as it has made its way up and down our judicial system, with their lives hanging in the balance. They strongly believe that, surely, although the president may have the power to make policies, he certainly does not have the power to discriminate. The detail and attention with which they’ve followed the courts’ decisions in these cases are remarkable, and they serve as a reminder to me: Regardless of what the justices ultimately decide, the fight for justice and equality will be a long one — one in which Yemeni-Americans must be fully engaged along with our fellow Americans.


Four Ways You Can Help #BringMarcoBack (The Torch)

Four Ways You Can Help #BringMarcoBack

APRIL 23, 2018

Two weeks ago, we sued the Trump administration over its decision to separate a Dreamer from his loving husband. Marco Villada is a DACA recipient who grew up in California and knows no other place as home. In 2014, he married the love of his life, Israel Serrato, and they built a vibrant life together. Despite following all the rules for adjusting Marco’s status to lawful permanent residence, Marco and Israel have been unjustly separated from each other by a consular official’s mistaken decision.

Marco is currently blocked from coming home to Los Angeles. He went to Mexico to finish the process of obtaining a visa through his marriage to Israel, trusting the adjustment process and fully believing he would be able to return. Despite assurances by immigration officials that Marco would be allowed back into the U.S., U.S. consular officials in Juarez barred him from returning.

As he has with many Dreamers, President Trump failed Marco when he cruelly terminated the DACA program. Congress failed Marco again by failing to pass the Dream Act. Now, finally, the Trump administration has failed Marco yet again by barring him from coming home and thus separating him from his husband, family, friends, and life here in the U.S.

If you stand with Marco and Israel, here are four things you can do to help #BringMarcoBack:

  1. Sign the petition urging President Trump and his administration to stop hurting Dreamers and #BringMarcoBack.
  2. After you sign the petition, spread the word! Share the petition and the video with your friends on Twitter and Facebook.
  3. Write Marco and Israel a letter of support. Separation from loved ones isn’t easy. Fighting injustice in front of the world isn’t easy, either. Let Marco and Israel know you admire their courage in standing up for themselves and for what is right. Write your letter and send it to [email protected] with the subject line “Letter of Support for Marco.”
  4. Contact your senators and representatives in Congress, share Marco’s story, and demand they pass the Dream Act now. If Congress had done its job a long time ago, Marco would not be in this situation. We can’t let this kind of thing happen to any more Dreamers. You can reach out in three ways:
    Write your senators and representative a letter telling them about Marco and Israel and asking them to talk about this injustice on social media, in floor speeches, and with their colleagues.
    Call your senators and representative in Congress, share Marco’s story, and ask them to make sure all Dreamers are protected. Call 202-224-3121 and tell them to pass the Dream Act now.
    Tweet at your senators and representative! Share Marco’s story with them on social media via Twitter and Facebook.

We hope you will join us in demanding justice for Marco and Israel. Thank you for lifting your voice and spreading the word to help us #BringMarcoBack.


Reflections on Resistance against the Muslim Ban (The Torch)

Reflections on Resistance against the Muslim Ban

APRIL 17, 2018

Since January 27, 2017, we have been fighting the Muslim ban in the courts and on the streets. As an Iranian-American lawyer, with family, friends, and clients coming through San Francisco International Airport during Muslim Ban 1.0, I remember how thousands of community members and our allies came out to the airport in protest. That resistance and solidarity kept a national spotlight on the Muslim ban and kept us going in securing the release of individuals wrongfully detained at the airports.

Fast forward to March 30, 2018. Hundreds of civil rights organizations representing individuals impacted by this third iteration of the Muslim ban, members of the Japanese-American community, immigration and constitutional law experts, LGBTQIA leaders, business and labor organizations, states, elected officials, and national security experts filed amicus (friend-of-the-court) briefs in opposition to the Muslim ban. Amicus briefs will provide perspectives and expertise to the Supreme Court on legal issues as it prepares to hear oral arguments on the case on April 25, 2018.

I am personally moved by the amicus brief of Karen Korematsu, Jay Hirabayashi, and Holly Yasui  —  the children of Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi, and Minoru Yasui. They see the disturbing relevance of the Supreme Court’s decisions in their fathers’ infamous cases challenging the mass removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. Their amicus brief outlines the parallels between the two cases as the U.S. government is once again asking the Court to blindly justify blanket action against an entire group.

It is also critical that the amicus briefs capture the impact Muslim Ban 3.0 has had on our communities. Since December 4, 2017, when the Supreme Court allowed Muslim Ban 3.0 to go into full effect while lower courts heard challenges to the case, we have been inundated with cases involving mass visa denials for children, spouses, parents, and grandparents, including Iranian, Yemeni, Somali, Syrian, Libyan U.S. citizens and green card–holders, students, and people with urgent medical issues.

While the text of Muslim Ban 3.0 claims to have a “waiver process,” by which if a waiver is granted the ban will no longer prevent the applicant from obtaining a visa, the reality on the ground is chaos, because there is no process, and waivers are not being granted. The amicus briefs of the Pars Equality Center and immigration law scholars capture the devastation and hardship I have been witnessing and fighting against for the last year as well as the legal limbo and whiplash of a year of litigation over three versions of the Muslim ban. All versions have been found to violate federal law by lower courts.

The Muslim ban is only one of many attacks on immigrant communities we are fighting. Hundreds of immigrants’ rights organizations, practitioners, and professors  —  including the Immigration Law Clinic at my alma mater, the University of California, Davis  —  that are fighting the rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program as well as the detention and deportation of immigrant community members, submitted amicus briefs outlining how the Muslim ban clearly violates the Immigration and Nationality Act.

These amicus briefs highlight key points for the Supreme Court to consider as it hears the case. And I hope they will push the Court to rule in our favor.

Join us in rallying on Wednesday, April 25, to say #NoMuslimBanEver.

Elica Vafaie is a staff attorney at Advancing Justice  –  Asian Law Caucus and program manager of its National Security and Civil Rights Program.


Trump’s Latest Muslim Ban Makes Its Way to the Supreme Court (The Torch)

UPDATE: JUNE 26, 2018
Supreme Court Allows Discriminatory Muslim Ban to Stand: Statement by NILC’s Executive Director

Trump’s Latest Muslim Ban Makes Its Way to the Supreme Court

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Subha Varadarajan, Muslim Ban Campaign Legal & Outreach Fellow
APRIL 2, 2018

On April 25, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether one of the latest versions of Trump’s Muslim ban exceeds the authority of the president under federal immigration law and whether it violates the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against a certain religious group. Unlike prior versions of the ban, this iteration is permanent and was allowed to go into full effect until the Supreme Court issues a final ruling.

A Muslim ban is definitely in effect. Every day it’s separating loved ones.

After a prior version of the Muslim ban failed to make it to the Supreme Court because it expired, a later version, Muslim Ban 3.0 — which indefinitely bans most nationals from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. — has faced new challenges. After the ban was largely blocked by federal district courts, the Trump administration appealed these cases to the Ninth and Fourth Circuit Courts of Appeal.

On December 4, 2017, before the circuit courts heard the case, the Supreme Court issued an order allowing the Muslim Ban 3.0 to go into full effect until it issues a final ruling on the case, regardless of how the circuit courts ruled. This means that for nearly four months, we have had a full version of a Muslim ban in place for the first time since January 27, 2017, when Muslim Ban 1.0 was implemented. In that time, countless families have been separated because of a clearly discriminatory policy.

While the Supreme Court did not comment or rule on the legality of the ban, its decision to allow the ban to go forward for the time being confirmed the fears of Muslims here in the U.S. and around the world, and reinforced a feeling of uncertainty for those unable to make plans that many of us take for granted.

The lower courts rejected this latest Muslim ban. Now it’s up to the Supreme Court to decide.

On December 22, 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Hawaii v. Trump, affirmed that the latest version of the Muslim ban is still illegal, because it “once again exceeds the scope of [the president’s] delegated authority.” The Ninth Circuit issued a preliminary injunction temporarily blocking the policy from being applied to those who have a “bona fide relationship” with people or institutions in the U.S. The Trump administration appealed this decision to the Supreme Court. The court announced its decision to hear the case on January 19, 2018, and later set a hearing date for April 25, 2018.

On February 14, 2018, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard several challenges to this version of the Muslim Ban, including IRAP v. Trump and Zakzok v. Trump, also rejected the ban and also issued a preliminary injunction, ruling that it violates the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause. The Fourth Circuit found that the policy is “unconstitutionally tainted with animus toward Islam” and that “an objective observer could conclude that the President’s repeated statements convey the primary purpose of the Proclamation — to exclude Muslims from the United States.”

While the Supreme Court has not yet decided if it will join this case with the Hawaii case and hear both of them at the same time, it has said that it wants to hear arguments on both the statutory claims — whether the ban violates the president’s authority under federal law — and the constitutional ones — whether the ban violates the Establishment Clause because it discriminates against a particular religious group.

Unfortunately, despite these two circuit court opinions rejecting large parts of the ban, the Supreme Court’s prior order still allows the ban to remain in effect until it issues a final decision.

Need a reminder of what all the different Muslim Bans are and whom they impact? Check out our explainer that gives you an at-a-glance overview.

More on the Trump administration’s discrimination against people from Muslim-majority countries:


Wrong Information on USCIS Website Resulted in Rejected DACA Renewal Application (The Torch)

Wrong Information on USCIS Website Resulted in Rejected DACA Renewal Application

A family’s wellbeing is threatened when a mother loses her DACA due to a government mistake

FEBRUARY 26, 2018

The day after Christmas, while the rest of the country recovered from holiday celebrations, a 26-year-old mother of two sat helplessly while her Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals, or DACA, expired. Suddenly, she was no longer eligible to work in cleaning services and provide for her family, to which she contributed half of the household income.

Lisbeth met her husband and the father of her children at her family’s church while she was still in high school in Silver Spring, Maryland. Shortly before she graduated from high school, she gave birth to the couple’s first child. She has never feared deportation before. Now she cannot imagine it. She is terrified of being separated from her two U.S. citizen children and of being sent to live in El Salvador, a country that her family left when she was 13 years old because their lives were in imminent danger there.

A few years after graduating from high school, she applied for and was granted deferred action under DACA. Just weeks after the Trump administration announced on Sept. 5, 2017, that it was terminating the DACA program, Lisbeth gave birth to her second son. She mailed in her renewal application by two-day priority mail, and it was received at the Chicago lockbox well in advance of the administration’s arbitrary October 5, 2017, deadline for submitting renewal applications under its regime for terminating the program.

Lisbeth correctly followed the incorrect instructions in a USCIS video, which resulted in her DACA renewal application being rejected.

Lisbeth eventually received a rejection letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), saying that the fee payment she’d submitted with her application, $465, was incorrect, since the fee is $495. Lisbeth was confused, because in preparing her application she’d carefully followed the instructions she’d found in a USCIS video. When she rewatched the video to verify what her mistake had been, she saw that the mistake was actually USCIS’s: The video clearly said that the renewal fee is $465, not $495.

Because the rejection letter was accompanied by a green cover letter inviting Lisbeth to resubmit her application, she did exactly that, this time including a check for $495. A month later, she received another rejection notification saying that USCIS was no longer accepting renewal applications.

Lisbeth’s younger sister — who is also a DACA recipient — is graduating from high school this year, but her future is uncertain because her protected status expires in 2019. Lisbeth is now urgently asking Congress to create a permanent solution for people like her sister so they can continue their studies at the college level and contribute their maximum talents to the only country they’ve ever known — the only place they call home. And Lisbeth needs Congress to create a permanent solution so that her two young boys will not be left without the daily care of their mother, either because she’s been sent back to a place of instability and violence or because she can no longer provide for them.

The lives of Lisbeth and her family have been put in crisis by the Trump administration’s reckless termination of the DACA program and by incorrect information published by the very government agency charged with administering the process that would provide them some relief and protection.

It doesn’t have to be this way. To learn more about what you can do to help people such as Lisbeth, visit, or call Congress at 1-478-488-8059 and ask your senators and representatives to vote on the bipartisan Dream Act now!


Allowed to Finally Shine (The Torch)

Allowed to finally shine

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Fatima Ahmed, guest blogger
FEBRUARY 23, 2018

My name is Fatima. I am 30 years old and have lived almost my entire life as undocumented in the United States. My mother immigrated from Bangladesh to New York when I was a year and a half old.

“I am lucky to have always known what my passion is, and DACA allowed me the opportunity to pursue it.” (Photo courtesy of Fatima Ahmed.)

I received both my bachelor’s and master’s degree at the Fashion Institute of Technology summa cum laude. Since DACA did not exist when I attended college, I was not able to pay for school with scholarships or aid, even though I would have been an ideal candidate. Instead, I went to school full-time, while also working various odd jobs full-time to pay for tuition. I interned part-time at prestigious museums and fashion houses, knowing that I would never be able to work at those institutions unless I could gain status. I had to turn down dream jobs because I could not be legally paid. While I was a bright student and beloved by notable figures in my university, I had no prospect of furthering my passion in design.

Once I had DACA, my whole life changed. I was immediately hired by Peter Marino Architects, a world-renowned interior design and architecture firm. I was allowed to finally shine at what I studied to do. DACA gave me the opportunity to work in my field, becoming well known in the New York City interior design world before becoming a small business owner of a growing textile company. However, I had been held back in my career, since I was not able to travel. Most of my work is with international clients.

In my personal life, I had not seen my father in 12 years because his quality of life suffered too much as an undocumented immigrant, so he moved back to Bangladesh. He passed away several months ago, and I was not able to see or be with him, since I couldn’t travel then. This caused me an immense amount of grief.

I’ve lived in this country my whole life. My entire family is here. I am an active member of my community. I volunteer in charities, I pay federal taxes, I contribute to the American economy in numerous ways. I know no one in Bangladesh and have no roots or ties there. I am lucky to have always known what my passion is, and DACA allowed me the opportunity to pursue it.

In 2014, I married my husband, a U.S. citizen, and applied for adjustment of status. Just this past September, after waiting three years, I finally received my green card. Unfortunately, most people with DACA will not be able to adjust their status this way and will need action from Congress.

I’ve lost a lot in my life due to my undocumented status. I have also gained a lot in my life due to DACA. Like me, people who have DACA want to contribute to this country that they call home, but they can’t if they’re not treated as full members of society. Many bright futures that benefit the United States will be lost a permanent solution is created for DACA recipients.

Fatima Ahmed is a designer and former DACA recipient from Sunnyside, New York.

To learn more about what you can do to help people like Fatima, visit And you can do more: Call Congress at 1-478-488-8059 and insist that your senators and representatives support and vote for the bipartisan Dream Act now!


This Little Piece of Freedom to Be Almost Normal, Like My Peers (The Torch)

This little piece of freedom to be almost normal, like my peers

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Shahrzad, guest blogger
FEBRUARY 22, 2018

My family applied for visitor visas in the early ’90s, and by 1996 we were granted a visa to come visit my grandparents in Chicago from India. It was a really big deal for my family, and the fact that I hadn’t seen my grandparents in three to four years only added to the excitement.

Once we got here, my grandparents felt strongly that my siblings and I would get a better education in the USA and convinced my parents to leave us here to be raised by them. My parents went back to India, and my siblings and I were left behind in pursuit of higher education and a better life.

I was a sophomore in high school when I first realized that I didn’t have a nine-digit Social Security number and therefore my options were super limited. Unlike in Latino communities, where there is a bit more openness regarding one’s status, in Indian (South Asian) communities there is nothing but fear and stigma.

I never told any of my friends that I was undocumented. I always made an excuse as to why I was not planning to go to college or why I couldn’t apply for certain jobs like my peers. In my senior year, I finally confided in one of my high school teachers, and she was able to find sources for me to be able to go to college.

I’d attended one semester of art school when 9/11 happened. All of a sudden, the school started questioning my immigration status, and I had to drop out. It was the worst feeling to know that I couldn’t continue with my education. I went into deep depression and started self-medicating through alcohol and partying.

A few years later, I finally got myself together and went back to school. I started in community college and took one class at a time. I was able to get my associate’s in 2008. I applied to four-year university to get my bachelor’s in sociology. Toward the last semester of school, I started getting depressed and feeling anxious that even after getting a degree I would continue to work at a dead-end job.

However, that summer President Obama announced DACA. It changed my life. I finally was able to hope and plan for my future. As soon as DACA came out, I applied and was granted approval to be able to work. It has been five years since I got DACA; I will be renewing it in the next few weeks. Having DACA connected me with a job I love. My income went from living paycheck to paycheck to something substantial. I purchased my first car earlier this year, I have health insurance through my work, and I can travel within the USA. The feeling to be able to travel even within the USA is a small freedom, but it’s everything I can ask for: This little piece of freedom to be almost normal, like my peers.

But most importantly — this is gonna sound crazy — but I love paying income taxes. I love taking my shoe box to H&R Block and doing my taxes every year. It confirms my belief that I am a contributing member of this country. And, yes, sometimes as a DACAmented youth it feels like “taxation without representation,” but it is still something that allows me to be part of this country.

I belong here. I don’t remember anything about India except what I hear from my family members who get to visit or still live there. My Hindi is terrible, my sense of independence and feminism too strong that I know, if I am to go back, I will not survive in a culture/country I no longer belong to.

“Shahrzad” is a pseudonym. She is a DACA recipient from Chicago.

To learn more about what you can do to help people like Shahrzad, visit And you can do more: Call Congress at 1-478-488-8059 and insist that your senators and representatives support and vote for the bipartisan Dream Act now!