Senators Send Letter Requesting Clarification of the “Waiver” Process

Washington, DC – On April 19, 2018 Senators Van Hollen (D-MD), Murphy (D-CT), and Blumenthal (D-CT) sent a follow-up letter to the State Department (DOS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to request further information on the administration’s implementation of Presidential Proclamation 9645, specifically “waiver provisions” outlined in President Trump’s latest Travel Ban.  This follow-up letter is the latest request for clarification in a series of inquiries from the administration initiated by a coalition of prominent Iranian American organizations including PAAIA, IABA, and Pars Equality Center in partnership with an alliance of civil society, advocacy, and legal organizations who met with the senators to discuss the issue in January.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to lift the stay on the Travel Ban, the coalition received numerous reports of long-pending visa applications under “administrative processing” being denied, en masse rejection of visa applicants, and the unavailability of waiver applications. In response, the coalition sent a letter to the State Department and met with the senators’ offices to ask for their help in obtaining answers from the Trump administration.

The coalition provided the offices with a brief background of our lawsuit, our findings on the ground, and our recommendations and urged them to follow up our letter with one of their own.  As a result, Senators Van Hollen and Flake wrote to the departments asking for clarification on the waivers and stated their discontent with the Travel Ban in general. On February 22, the State Department responded to the inquiries which raised more concerns about the clarity of instructions provided to consular officers and also the ostensible number of waivers, only 2, issued by February 15.

In the follow-up letter, the Senators pointed to the lack of information on the baseline criteria required by section 4(a) of the proclamation that requires “the Secretary of State to conduct engagements with the countries subject to the travel restriction on ‘information sharing, identity-management, or risk factor deficiencies’”, and asked for clarification on “the engagements the administration has conducted with the countries identified in the proclamation or the actions the identified countries have taken to come into compliance.”

The follow-up letter also raised concerns about the number of waivers issued and the “inconsistent and incomplete” numbers reported by the State Department. It also alluded to the lack of “meaningful guidance on the waiver program”, specifically the three criteria required for a waiver, “national interest,” “undue hardship,” and “threat to national security.” Given these concerns, the letter requested more information to be provided by April 30, 2018.

We are awaiting responses from the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security and hope to meet with appropriate representatives to discuss the issue more in-depth.  We thank Senators Van Hollen, Murphy, and Blumenthal for their help in seeking clarification of the waiver process.  PAAIA and the coalition will continue to update you on how the Travel Ban is affecting the Iranian American community.

Please click here to read a full copy of the letter from PAAIA and its coalition.

Please click here to read a full copy of the follow up letter from senators.

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