US arbitrarily yanking passports of Yemeni-Americans

State Department Taking Passports Away from Yemeni-Americans

by The Editors | published August 9, 2014 – 4:18pm
Over the past year, dozens of Yemeni-Americans visiting their ancestral homeland have had their US passports summarily revoked or confiscated by the embassy in Sanaa without any clear legal basis, effectively stranding them outside the United States. Last month, a coalition of US civil rights groups submitted a report on this practice to the Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) pursuant to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. We asked Yaman Salahi and Nasrina Bargzie, staff attorneys at the National Security and Civil Rights Program at Asian Americans Advancing Justice: Asian Law Caucus who co-authored this report with eight other legal rights groups, to shed light on the issue.

How has the US government been taking passports away from Yemeni-Americans?

The experiences people report have the same essential ingredients. The typical tale involves a Yemeni-American man (all of our cases so far involve men) who has been living in the United States, as a US citizen, since childhood. As an adult, he travels to Yemen to visit his parents, wife or children, and needs to apply for a visa for his spouse or relative, or to document his children as US citizens born in Yemen. He requests an appointment, for which there is often a six-month wait. He travels hundreds of miles through politically unstable territory to reach the embassy in Sanaa. There, he typically waits several hours before being called. In the course of the appointment at the consular window, a law enforcement officer takes the petitioner away to an interrogation room for several hours. The officer aggressively lobs groundless accusations of fraud at him, sometimes accusing him of having another name, sometimes accusing him of lying about who his parents are. Keep in mind that this man has already proven, to the satisfaction of a US government official, that he is a US citizen, and no one has taken any action to challenge that. He’s got valid proof of US citizenship, like a Certificate of Citizenship, a Certificate of Naturalization or a Consular Report of Birth Abroad.

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