Families trying to bring their Iranian spouses and other family members to the United States have filed a federal lawsuit in California, saying they are being unfairly blocked by the Trump administration’s travel ban in effect for Iran and four other Muslim-majority countries.
The group of American citizens and legal residents sued on July 23 complaining that they’ve waited months for waivers that are only given on an individual basis.
Advocates say there is no formal procedure to apply for the waivers as tensions between the United and Iran are escalating over Tehran’s nuclear program and defiance of U.S. sanctions over the export of oil.
"They don't have any other options, and so the only hope they have is the court,” Curtis Morrison, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told AP.
The Department of Homeland Security didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The ban also applies to Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and North Korea, as well as officials from Venezuela.
On July 28, five world powers will meet Iran in Vienna to try and salvage a 2015 accord whereby Tehran promised to severely limit its nuclear program in exchange for economic relief from sanctions.
The United States was a signatory of the pact, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but exited it last year while reimposing restrictive measures that target Iran’s crucial oil and financial industries.
France, Germany, and Britain -- three of the accord's five remaining signatories -- have tried to save the deal.
Meanwhile, the three European Union countries have devised a complicated barter package for Iran in order to alleviate the sting of crippling U.S. sanctions.
Consequently, Iran says it no longer feels bound by the JCPOA. On July 1, Tehran said it had amassed more than the permitted amount of low-enriched uranium.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi on July 23 said that despite sanctions, Tehran is “set to keep exporting oil, no matter what,” in reference to keeping shipping lanes secure in the Strait of Hormuz.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on July 22 that Washington is building a maritime coalition that will patrol the Strait of Hormuz.
Washington has expressed determination not to let Iran enrich uranium for bomb-making.
The strait has been the scene of brinkmanship after Iran shot down a U.S. drone and seized a British-flagged tanker in the area in recent weeks.