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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Secrecy in Visa Denials Headed to High Court

WASHINGTON (CN) - Whether the U.S. government can deny visas on "terrorism grounds" without further explanation will go before the Supreme Court, the justices said Thursday.

The 9th Circuit became an outlier last year in finding that the government lacked "a facially legitimate reason" for denying a visa to Afghan citizen Kanishka Berashk.

Though the petitioner in that case, Berashk's wife, U.S. citizen Fauzia Din, found relief, other families have been less successful in other federal courts of appeal.

Just this week the D.C. Circuit referenced Din v. Kerry in saying that it would not apply "the exception to the consular nonreviewability doctrine" to spousal visa denials, "contrary to the holdings of certain cases decided in the Ninth Circuit."

Din and Berashk had married in September 2006, and a month later Din filed a petition for a visa on her husband's behalf. Government officials told her the petition was approved and arranged to interview Berashk at the embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan.

The 9th Circuit found that Berashk truthfully answered questions regarding matters such as his work as a payroll clerk for the Afghan Ministry of Social Welfare during the Taliban regime.

Berashk was told to expect his visa in two to six weeks, but Din said they had to call the Embassy several times before learning, almost nine months later, that the visa had been turned down.

The government cited only a broad provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act that excludes applicants for a variety of terrorism-related reasons. The denial letter stated that there was "no possibility of a waiver of this ineligibility," according to the ruling.

When Berashk emailed the Embassy for clarification, he was told that "it is not possible to provide a detailed explanation of the reasons for the denial."

Din and her pro bono attorney nevertheless tried to find out why the visa had been denied, but Embassy officials declined to elaborate.

In her lawsuit, Din called it unconstitutional for the government to deny the visa without explaining what her husband allegedly did to be deemed inadmissible on terrorism grounds.

In agreeing 2-1 with Din last year, the 9th Circuit reversed dismissal from a federal judge.

Judge Richard Clifton wrote in dissent that the government "was not required to provide more specific information" about why it denied Berashk's visa.

A federal judge in San Francisco cited Din v. Kerry earlier this year in ordering the removal from a no-fly list of Malaysian national Rahinah Ibrahim.

Per its custom, the Supreme Court issued no comment in granting the government a writ of certiorari on Din's case Thursday.

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