Posted by Phoenix Immigration Attorney Nick Alcock:

Fatemeh Asadi fled Iran 22 years ago and immigrated to the U.S. in 2003. She has been waiting on pins and needles for several years for a chance at U.S. Citizenship. The refugee who resides in Mesa was finally granted her wish when she received her green card a month ago. However, it was not without considerable obstacles and endless patience on her part. She filed a lawsuit in February to force U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to process her 2007 application which had been on hold indefinitely because Asadi’s former political affiliation technically fits the definition of a terrorist group. Asadi and her husband, Rahmat Khalili, were members of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran, a pro-democracy faction that fought against the country’s government. However, KDPI is listed by the U.S. as a Tier III terrorist organization. Unlike Tier I or Tier II, which are defined as foreign organizations engaging in acts of terrorism and threats to the U.S., Tier III only needs to be a group of two or more people that has participated, or has a subgroup that participated, in terrorism.

Complicating things further, the “material support” clause of the Patriot Act says anyone who has given support, through money or service, to terrorist groups can be denied permanent residence in the U.S. Because of these laws, Citizenship and Immigration Services indefinitely holds applications from members of such groups unless the person or party receives a government exemption.

Najafi filed the suit on Feb. 27 and the government had 60 days to respond. It did, but by asking for a 30-day extension. A second extension request came a month later. Two days after that request, the government lawyers unexpectedly told Najafi that Asadi would get her green card. Even better, because Asadi has lived in the country for so long, she also was told that she could apply for citizenship after three months, instead of the usual five years. But most important for Asadi is that she no longer has the fear of deportation hanging over her head. It also means the end of applying every year to renew her driver’s license. No green card also made it difficult to rent apartments or enroll her children in school.

The lawsuit was a huge risk in itself, because the government could have responded by deporting Asadi and Khalili to Iran, where they were convinced they faced execution.

Khalili’s green-card application is still pending, but has received assurances from legal counsel that his application will be accepted; he just needs to wait for the individual exemption to come.

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