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14 Iranian American families separated by the travel ban are suing the Trump administration

Posted at 8:08 AM, Jul 24, 2019

Fourteen families are suing the Trump administration for the hardships and "unbearable burdens" they've experienced stemming from the US travel ban.

The complaint filed Monday in the Central District of Southern California says that "unreasonable administrative delays" for processing travel ban waivers, among other reasons, has caused the defendants distress. It paints a picture of separated spouses and broken families suffering "a range of ongoing harms."

The most recent version of the ban has been in effect since December 2017 and blocks travel from several countries, most of which are predominantly Muslim.

The ban allows for visas to be issued on a case-by-case basis with a waiver under certain conditions.

According to the proclamation signed by President Donald Trump, waivers are intended for those who can demonstrate that their entry would not pose a threat to national security and would be in the national interest and for whom denial of entry would cause "undue hardship."

But the group suing -- all of whom are US citizens or permanent residents and their Iranian relatives who are visa applicants -- have waited "unreasonable amounts of time" -- an average of 447 days at the time the lawsuit was filed -- for travel ban waivers, the complaint says.

"Those days have been filled with unbearable hardships and a constant state of distress that, absent intervention, will last indefinitely," the complaint says.

CNN has reached out to the State Department for comment.

A 592-day wait

The waiting has been detrimental for the defendants named in the lawsuit, the complaint says.

Shamim Darchini, a US citizen who lives in Irvine, California, experienced "severe anxiety, stress, and depression as a result of being separated from her husband," according to the complaint.

"These problems have also triggered other health problems for her," the complaint says. "She feels like she and her husband are being punished, but she doesn't know why."

Darchini met her husband, Amin Sirati, in 2013 when she was in Iran visiting her parents and they were married two years later.

In September 2015, they petitioned for his visa and Sirati had his interview in July 2017, where he was told "everything looks good" and his visa would be ready in 2 months, according to the complaint.

But Darchini's husband, who works as a dentist in Iran, has yet to make it to the US. His waiver has been pending since December 8, 2017.

He told CNN he's constantly trying to do everything in his power to get people to listen to his case. And he's awake nearly all hours of the day trying to match his wife's time zone, a time difference of 11.5 hours.

Desperate to get out

Curtis Morrison, the lead attorney on the case, told CNN his work with Yemeni families desperate to reunite following the travel ban inspired him to file the lawsuit.

When he realized the Iranian community was faced with similar hurdles, Morrison said he began using multiple social media platforms to spread the word that he wanted to help.

He used encrypted apps to communicate with his clients, he said, as many Iranians fear for their safety. Not all defendants are named in the lawsuit, for fear of prosecution in their country, Morrison said.

Fear of another ban has left them desperate to be with their loved ones, he said.

"There is a sense of urgency felt in the Iranian community, almost as if they don't do anything now they feel like they're going to get stuck, wherever in the world they are," Morrison said.