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Freshfields wins summary judgement for Afghan and Iraqi nationals

U.S. District Court rules delays in issuing visas unreasonable

On September 20th, 2019, a Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP (‘Freshfields’) team, in partnership with the International Refugee Assistance Project (‘IRAP’), won a major victory for Afghans and Iraqis facing mortal danger for helping U.S. forces and who have applied for a Special Immigrant Visa (‘SIV’). The SIV program was created by Congress in 2008 for Iraqis and in 2009 for Afghans in order to provide a legal pathway to safety for local allies who had become the target of militias and other anti-U.S. forces due to their work with the U.S. government.  Because applicants are at immediate risk, Congress mandated in 2013 that applicants should receive a decision on their visas within nine months after submitting an application.  However, plaintiffs have been waiting years for a decision, and many of them live in hiding.

The Freshfields team, consisting of partner Linda H. Martin, counsel David Y. Livshiz, and associates Shannon M. Leitner, Rebecca L. Curwin, Allison C. Wilson, Olivia Greene, and Alistair Blacklock, with assistance from senior associate Laura Onken, and IRAP commenced the case in 2018. In January 2019, the U.S. District Court provisionally certified a class of plaintiffs who had not received an adjudication on their SIV application within the congressionally mandated nine months, and simultaneously denied defendants' motion to dismiss.

This case is the first class action brought on behalf of SIV applicants whose applications have been pending longer than nine months. In the decision, U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan held that the delays the applicants experienced, especially given the danger they are in, were unreasonable. Judge Chutkan granted summary judgment in Plaintiffs’ favor and ordered the government to prepare a plan to adjudicate the pending SIV applications within 30 days of a final ruling on class certification. Upon the plan’s approval, the government will be required to submit bimonthly reports on the progress of adjudicating these long-delayed applications.

This decision is critical for SIV applicants seeking refuge in the United States and will ensure that the defendants are no longer able to avoid adjudicating these applications. The case is Allies v. Pompeo, No. 18-cv-01388 (D.D.C.).

Associate Shannon Leitner, who was one of the two attorneys who argued Plaintiffs’ summary judgment motion, said, “This is an important decision in ensuring that we, as a nation, keep our promises to the brave Afghans and Iraqis who have risked everything to help us.”

“We are thrilled that this decision could finally bring relief to these men and women and their families, who have risked everything to support the U.S. missions in their home countries and have been forced to wait in limbo for far too long,” expressed Deepa Alagesan, IRAP supervising attorney.

Freshfields represented the plaintiffs on a pro-bono basis.  Our firm is committed to making a positive difference within the communities we touch.  “I’m incredibly proud of our team’s hard work on behalf of our plaintiffs,” said partner Linda Martin.  “Our pro-bono efforts are focused on providing equal access to justice and to opportunity.”


Notes to editors: 

About Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP is a global law firm with a long-standing track record of successfully supporting the world's leading national and multinational corporations, financial institutions and governments on groundbreaking and business-critical mandates. Our 2,800-plus lawyers deliver results worldwide through our own offices and alongside leading local firms. Our commitment, local and multinational expertise, and business know-how means our clients rely on us when it matters most.

For more information contact: 

In the U.S.

Nicholle Romero
+1 212 284 4987

Remy Marin
+1 646 818 9298