An advocacy group is suing the United States government on behalf of a Muslim mother from Dearborn whose twin sons have spent two years awaiting a decision on their immigration applications, leaving them unable to live together outside of Africa.

The woman sought the documents more than four years ago so the boys, now 8 years old, would be reunited with her and their siblings in the United States, where they had relocated, according to the federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter. The twins previously had  been living with their father overseas, said Amy Doukoure, a CAIR-MI staff attorney.

After they appeared for immigration visa interviews at the U.S. Embassy in Johannesburg, South Africa, in April 2016, the family paid fees and sent documents and passports, the court filing stated.

However, after the visas were approved, government authorities voided them and placed both boys into “administrative processing,” CAIR-MI officials allege. 

Since then, “no further action has been taken by the embassy on plaintiffs’ ... visa applications, no decision has been rendered and the cases have remained in administrative processing for greater than two years,” the lawsuit said. “... Furthermore, it appears that originally the embassy acknowledged plaintiffs’ eligibility for the instant benefit they seek as it appears that the embassy in fact printed the visas into both (the boys’) passports prior to canceling the visas and placing the children into administrative processing.”

The situation forced their mother to relocate to Mozambique in the last two years with her other two children, who are U.S. citizens, in order to keep the family together, CAIR-MI reported. Her boys have also “experienced severe hardship whereby they were separated from their U.S. citizen-extended family members for the entirety of their young lives, and do not have full citizenship or nationality rights in the country in which they currently reside,” according to the lawsuit.

According to the U.S. Department of State website, visa processing times vary, and recent changes in national laws governing policy and procedures have increased how long it can take to obtain one.

The department aims to delivery a visa within 30 days of the application, but some applications need further administrative processing, which takes more time, officials wrote.  Though most administrative processing can be resolved within 60 days of the visa interview, “the timing will vary based on individual circumstances of each case,” the department’s web page read.

CAIR-MI is asking the U.S. District Court in Detroit to force the government to decide on the visa applications. 

“It is apparent from the lack of action on the part of the government that there never was an intention to make a determination on these 8-year-old boys’ visa applications and that they would be left to languish in perpetuity,” Doukoure said. “This is just another example of our government violating immigration laws to further its policies of separating families and keeping Muslims out of America.”

Reached Tuesday night, a U.S. Department of State representative would only say visa records are confidential and declined further comment.

The lawsuit over the visa applications emerges amid a national uproar over policies involving illegal immigration in President Trump’s administration.

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