CAIR-Columbus announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. State Department on behalf of a Muslim-American plaintiff, asking a federal court in Ohio to order the State Department to issue him a U.S. passport. The Plaintiff in the lawsuit was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 2013. After his previous U.S. passport pages became full, he applied to renew his passport. He went in person to the State Department’s Passport Office in Minneapolis, and paid the extra fee for “expedited” passport renewal service.
Normally, a U.S. citizen who applies in person at a Passport Office on an expedited basis — especially if they have been issued a U.S. passport previously, and are applying for a renewal rather than a first-time passport — can pick up their new passport within a couple of days, even the same day if they have evidence of imminent planned international travel.
The Plaintiff in this case, however, is still waiting for a new passport, sixteen months after he submitted his application. In response to repeated inquiries, he and his lawyers have been told only that his passport application is still “pending”. In the meantime, he is legally prohibited from leaving the USA without a passport, has been unable to travel outside the United States to accept an offer of employment, and has not been able to travel to see his ailing mother.
“The federal government picks and chooses when they want to delay processing of passport applications for Muslims for an indefinite period of time. By keeping passport applicants on an indefinite hold, the State Department hopes to exercise a “pocket veto” of passport issuance and international travel, without issuing formal decisions denying passport applications that would be subject to judicial review,” said Jennifer Nimer, CAIR-Columbus Executive Director and one of the Plaintiff’s attorneys. “This lawsuit challenges the federal government’s unchecked practice of denying certain individuals their constitutionally-protected right to travel without affording them their right to due process of law.”
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding. There are three CAIR chapters in Ohio- Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.