Immigrant’s Suit Shines Light on Shadowy Customs Tool

WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge advanced a lawsuit Thursday by a man facing deportation after refusing to inform for the FBI on America’s Iranian community.

Manouchehr Jafardzadeh has been lawfully residing in the United States since 1979 and applied for change of status to lawful permanent resident in January 2010.

Jafardzadeh’s daughter, a a U.S. citizen, filed a parallel request, but customs officials made no determination on either application until December 2016.

By then the Jafardzadehs had already filed a federal complaint in Washington. They noted that during the six-year wait, Manouchehr had faced multiple FBI interviews in which agents offered to grease the wheels of his green card application if he began informing for the FBI on fellow Iranian Americans.

Advancing the Jafardzadehs’ suit on Thursday, U.S. District Judge John Bates noted that the father “has consistently declined to act as an informant for the FBI” and that his pending deportation is undisputed.

The Jafardzadehs sought various forms of relief, but Judge Bates agreed Thursday only to advance their challenge of the shadowy customs process known as the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program.

The American Civil Liberties union called out the CARRP program as unlawful in a 2013 report, saying it predominantly targets Muslims and often sweeps up innocent applicants.

“For years, and without notice to applicants, their lawyers, or the public at large, USCIS has been blacklisting law-abiding applicants as ‘national security concerns’ based on lawful religious activity, national origin, and innocuous associations,” the report says.

The ACLU of Southern California played a key role in bringing information about the program to light through a 2013 Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. 

Bates agreed Thursday that Jafardzadeh raised “a substantive claim regarding the legality of utilizing CARRP, not just a claim that USCIS must act promptly.”

Jafardzadeh and his daughter have called CARRP arbitrary and capricious, saying it represents a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act because regulators bypassed the notice-and-comment period as well as other proper rulemaking channels in adopting the program.

Bates agreed that his court is the proper venue for the challenge since it cannot be raised in the administrative process. If Jafardzadeh merely sought review of the final agency decision, he said, the D.C. Circuit’s review of such “would necessarily be hobbled.”

This is “because it would be limited to the administrative record before the immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals — and of course, there would not be a record relating to plaintiffs’ challenge regarding USCIS and utilization of CARRP,” the ruling states.

Jafardzadeh says he wasn’t informed of the CARRP program or the basis for his inclusion in it.

“Indeed, the core of plaintiffs’ claim is that under CARRP any agency (not just DHS and the Department of Justice, to which the INA delegates immigration authority) can determine the outcome of an immigration application without explaining to the applicant why or presenting him or her with an opportunity to challenge the relevant evidence,” the ruling states.

The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to an email seeking comment on the ruling.

Jafardzadeh’s attorney, Ladan Mirbagheri-Smith of Mirbagheri & Smith also did not respond to a request for comment.

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