Officially On: Revocation/Denial of Passport For Americans With Seriously Delinquent Tax Debt

 

The IRS has now posted a notice on its website indicating that it has began sending certifications of unpaid tax debt to the State Department in February 2018. Americans with seriously delinquent tax debt (totaling more than $51,000 (including interest and penalties) , per IRC § 7345 will be certified as such  to the State Department for action. The State Department reportedly will not issue passports to to individuals after receipt of certification from the IRS.

Back in December 2015, we first reported in this blog  about the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act,” or “FAST Act” which includes Section 7345 that provides for the revocation or denial of U.S. passports to applicants with certain tax delinquencies considered ‘seriously delinquent tax debt’ –that is, a tax liability that has been assessed, which is greater than $50,000 and a notice of lien has been filed. That law was passed and the IRS was supposed to start certifying in early 2017 but that did not happen.

According to the recent IRS notice, upon receiving certification, the State Department shall deny the tax delinquent individual’s  passport application and/or may revoke his/her current passport. If the passport application is denied or the passport is revoked while said individual is overseas, the State Department may issue a limited validity passport but only for direct return to the United States. Read more here via IRS.gov

Note that the guidance also says that the State Department is held harmless in these matters and cannot be sued for any erroneous notification or failed decertification under IRC § 7345.  Affected individuals can file suit in the U.S. Tax Court or a U.S. District Court to have the court determine whether the certification is erroneous or the IRS failed to reverse the certification when it was required to do so. “If the court determines the certification is erroneous or should be reversed, it can order the IRS to notify the State Department that the certification was in error.”

The State Department’s statement on this issue is available here with IRS contact details.

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U.S. Passport Identifiers For Registered Sex Offenders Went Into Effect on Oct 31, 2017

Posted: 1:34 pm PT

 

Via State/CA:

The passport identifier provision of International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders (IML) (Public Law 114-119) went into effect on October 31, 2017.

The IML prohibits the Department of State from issuing a passport to a covered sex offender without a unique identifier, and it allows for the revocation of passports previously issued to these individuals that do not contain the identifier (22 USC 212b).

The identifier is a passport endorsement, currently printed inside the back cover of the passport book, which reads: “The bearer was convicted of a sex offense against a minor, and is a covered sex offender pursuant to 22 United States Code Section 212b(c)(l).”  Since endorsements cannot be printed on passport cards, covered sex offenders cannot be issued passport cards.

Only the DHS/ICE Angel Watch Center (AWC) can certify an individual as a “covered sex offender.” Therefore, any questions by the applicant about such status must be directed to and resolved by AWC.

Applicants who have questions for AWC regarding their status or believe they have been wrongly identified as a covered sex offender as defined in Title 22 United States Code 212b(c)(1) should contact AWC at DHSintermeganslaw@ice.dhs.gov.

*

On February 08, 2016, President Obama signed into law H.R. 515, the “International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders,” which (1) authorizes the Department of Homeland Security’s Angel Watch Center and the Department of Justice’s National Sex Offender Targeting Center to send and receive notifications to or from foreign countries regarding international travel by registered sex offenders; and (2) requires the Department of State to include unique identifiers on passports issued to registered sex offenders.

According to DHS/ICE, its Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Operation Angel Watch was initially created in 2007 and is managed by the Child Exploitation Investigations Unit of the ICE Cyber Crimes Center and is a joint effort with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Marshals Service. Operation Angel Watch targets individuals who have been previously convicted of sexual crimes against a child and who may pose a potential new threat: traveling overseas for the purpose of sexually abusing or exploiting minors, a crime known as “child sex tourism.”

Through Operation Angel Watch, HSI uses publicly available sex offender registry information and passenger travel data to strategically alert foreign law enforcement partners through its HSI attaché offices of a convicted child predator’s intent to travel to their country. In Fiscal Year 2015, HSI made over 2,100 notifications to more than 90 countries.

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IRS to Start Certifying Unpaid Taxes of $50K+ in Early 2017 For Revocation/Denial of US Passports

Posted: 1:16 am  ET
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In December 2015, we reported in this blog  about the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act,” or “FAST Act.” One item included in the FAST Act, which had been signed into law, affects the State Department and the traveling American public. Section 7345 provides for the revocation or denial of U.S. passports to applicants with certain tax delinquencies considered ‘seriously delinquent tax debt’ –that is, a tax liability that has been assessed, which is greater than $50,000 and a notice of lien has been filed. (see New Law Authorizes Revocation or Denial of U.S. Passports to Certain Tax Delinquents).

A recent IRS notice says that the agency has not yet started certifying tax debt to the State Department but that such certifications will begin in early 2017. The website here currently provides information “for informational purposes only” but will be updated to indicate when the process has been implemented. Excerpt:

If you have seriously delinquent tax debt, IRC § 7345 authorizes the IRS to certify that to the State Department. The department generally will not issue or renew a passport to you after receiving certification from the IRS.

Upon receiving certification, the State Department may revoke your passport. If the department decides to revoke it, prior to revocation, the department may limit your passport to return travel to the U.S.

Certification Of Individuals With Seriously Delinquent Tax Debt

Seriously delinquent tax debt is an individual’s unpaid, legally enforceable federal tax debt totaling more than $50,000* (including interest and penalties) for which a:

–Notice of federal tax lien has been filed and all administrative remedies under IRC § 6320 have lapsed or been exhausted or

–Levy has been issued

Some tax debt is not included in determining seriously delinquent tax debt even if it meets the above criteria. It includes tax debt:

–Being paid in a timely manner under  an installment agreement entered into with the IRS

–Being paid in a timely manner under an offer in compromise accepted by the IRS or a settlement agreement entered into with the Justice Department

–For which a collection due process hearing is timely requested in connection with a levy to collect the debt

–For which collection has been suspended because a request for innocent spouse relief under IRC § 6015 has been made

Before denying a passport, the State Department will hold your application for 90 days to allow you to:

–Resolve any erroneous certification issues

–Make full payment of the tax debt

–Enter into a satisfactory payment alternative with the IRS

There is no grace period for resolving the debt before the State Department revokes a passport.

Read more here: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/revocation-or-denial-of-passport-in-case-of-certain-unpaid-taxes.

Note that the passport denial for individuals who owe more than $2500 in past-due child support, based on a certification by the responsible State child-support agency to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been challenged and upheld in two cases before Federal courts: Eunique v. Powell, 281 F.3d 940, 2002 (9th Cir. Cal. 2002 – statute does not violate Fifth Amendment freedom to travel internationally); Weinstein v. Albright, 261 F.3d 127; 2001 (2nd Cir. 2001 – statutory and regulatory scheme comports with due process and equal protection).

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USDOJ Drops US Embassy Yemen Passport Revocation Case Sans Explanation

Posted: 2:16 am ET
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On October 13, 2015, the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California ordered the State Department to return the U.S. passport of Yemeni-American Mosed Shaye Omar which was revoked “based on the involuntary statement he provided at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a on January 23, 2013.” (See Court orders @StateDept to return Yemeni-American’s improperly revoked U.S.passport). In February 2016, the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California issued a cross motions for summary judgment: “This lawsuit presents the question of whether the United States government may revoke a United States citizen’s passport based solely on a purported “confession” that the citizen did not write, dictate, read, or have read to him, but did in fact sign. On the record before the Court, the answer is no.” (see more Omar v. Kerry, et.al: Passport Revocation “Arbitrary and Capricious,” New Hearing Ordered Within 60 Days).

On October 5, 2016, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California asked to drop the case “without prejudice.”  We’re wondering how many more of these revocation cases would mow be dropped and sealed in court.

Via Politico:

Federal prosecutors — acting abruptly and without public explanation — have moved to drop a controversial criminal passport fraud case that critics alleged stemmed from coercive interrogations at the U.S. embassy in Yemen.

Earlier this year, a grand jury in San Francisco indicted Mosed Omar on passport fraud charges linked to a statement he signed during a 2012 visit to the U.S. diplomatic post in the unstable Middle Eastern nation.
[…]

Thursday afternoon, prosecutors submitted a brief court filing asking to drop the criminal case “without prejudice,” meaning it could be refiled. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer will need to approve the dismissal of the case.

Spokesmen for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco did not respond to messages seeking an explanation for the sudden move.
[…]
In response to a query Thursday from POLITICO, a spokesman for State Inspector General Steve Linick confirmed that an inquiry is underway into the allegations about improper passport revocations

“In June 2016, State OIG’s Office of Evaluations and Special Projects initiated a review of the Department’s processes of passport confiscations and revocations at the US Embassy Sanaa, Yemen,” spokesman Doug Welty said. He offered no additional details on the review.

If the case against Omar went forward, prosecutors might have been obligated to turn over to the defense some or all records of the IG review. That prospect may have contributed to the proposed dismissal, but there was no direct indication.

Read more:

 

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Omar v. Kerry, et.al: Passport Revocation “Arbitrary and Capricious,” New Hearing Ordered Within 60 Days

Posted: 3:51 am EDT
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Back in April 2015, a San Francisco man sued the State Department in federal court, claiming that American embassy officials in Yemen illegally revoked his passport and left him stranded in that country for more than a year. This passport revocation case was just one in a string of lawsuits alleging improper revocation of passports by the U.S. Embassy in Yemen.

On October 13, the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California ordered the State Department to return the U.S. passport of Yemeni-American Mosed Shaye Omar which was revoked “based on the involuntary statement he provided at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a on January 23, 2013.” (See Court orders @StateDept to return Yemeni-American’s improperly revoked U.S.passport).

On February 16, the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California issued a cross motions for summary judgment:

This lawsuit presents the question of whether the United States government may revoke a United States citizen’s passport based solely on a purported “confession” that the citizen did not write, dictate, read, or have read to him, but did in fact sign. On the record before the Court, the answer is no.

Plaintiff Mosed Shaye Omar, a United States citizen, challenges the revocation of his passport following his interrogation and detention at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen. Plaintiff was stranded in Yemen for 13 months before he was provided written notice of the basis for his passport revocation and granted a temporary passport to return home to the United States. Plaintiff challenges the passport revocation and the constitutionality of the post-revocation proceedings wherein he sought return of his passport. The Court previously granted Plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction and ordered the government to return Plaintiff’s passport. The now pending cross-motions for summary judgment followed. Having considered the parties’ submissions, including their supplemental briefs, and having had the benefit of oral argument on December 17, 2015, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and DENIES the government’s cross-motion. The government’s revocation of Plaintiff’s passport predicated solely on his “confession” was arbitrary and capricious. The matter is therefore REMANDED for a new hearing within 60 days.
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[T]he only evidence in the record regarding the statement—other than the statement itself—is Plaintiff’s declaration attesting that he had no knowledge of what he was signing and that he was coerced into signing the statement based on the government’s false representation that if he did so he would obtain his and his daughter’s passports. The government does not offer any other evidence, including any evidence as to how the statement came about. On this record the statement itself is not substantial evidence supporting the government’s revocation decision.

Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley further writes:

It is inconceivable that Plaintiff would bear the burden of proving that he did not use a false name in obtaining his passport where he had no right to know the evidence against him in advance. Such a practice would run afoul of the fundamental nature of our system of justice. 

The court record notes that “Plaintiff, through his counsel, repeatedly asked for a copy of the statement upon which his passport revocation was based; however, the government refused to provide it until the parties exchanged simultaneous briefs seven days before the hearing. (AR 83-90.) The government similarly declined counsel’s request for a continuance of the hearing to allow counsel to prepare as they were only retained a month before the hearing. (AR 52-55.)”

The court has remanded the case to the State Department for a new hearing within 60 days:

The Court thus remands for a new hearing within 60 days. 22 C.F.R. § 51.70(c). As noted above, the government shall bear the burden of establishing that Plaintiff’s passport was properly revoked pursuant to 22 C.F.R. § 51.62(a)(2). Both parties agree, and indeed request, that the Court retain jurisdiction following remand. Because it is within the Court’s discretion to do so, the Court agrees to retain jurisdiction pending the remand.

For the reasons stated above, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and DENIES Defendant’s motion for summary judgment. This matter is remanded to the State Department for proceedings consistent with this Order, including a new hearing within 60 days under 22 C.F.R. § 51.70(c). The Court’s preliminary injunction remains in effect and Plaintiff shall retain possession of his passport during these administrative proceedings, and until he is afforded a full and fair hearing regarding the government’s allegation that Plaintiff’s passport is subject to revocation under 22 C.F.R. § 51.62(a)(2).8 Within 30 days of the conclusion of the administrative proceedings, the parties shall provide a joint status report detailing how they wish to proceed.

Read the full document below or see the  original post here.

 

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Coalition of Civil Rights Groups Seek State/OIG Investigation Into US Embassy Yemen’s Passport Revocations

Posted: 1:01 am EDT
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The Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus and  Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) Project of CUNY School of Law have submitted Stranded Abroad: Americans Stripped of Their Passports in Yemen to the State Department Office of Inspector General requesting that the OIG investigate the State Department and U.S. Embassy Yemen “for confiscating and revoking U.S. passports contrary to regulations, policies, and guidelines.” 

The groups alleged confiscation and revocation without notice, failure to provide direct return passports upon confiscation, collateral attacks on citizenship/proxy denaturalization, coercive interrogations and inadequate investigations prior to passport revocation.  The complaint named seven officials who were then assigned to the US Embassy Yemen and at the State Department who the groups say are aware of the pattern of revocation and “likely to have information that can assist the OIG’s investigation.” The complaint says that the  “inclusion of their names in this report is not intended to imply that they have engaged in any wrongdoing.” (see appendices)

The letter  (PDF) addressed to IG Steve Linick was sent by civil rights and civil liberties groups that include the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee,  American Civil Liberties Union, Arab American Institute, Arab Resource & Organizing Center, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Center for Constitutional Rights, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility at CUNY Law School, Muslim Advocates, and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

 

 

Read the 44-page complaint below:

 

A related note, we must have missed this one, Al Jazeera did a piece on this back in January 2014 (See Yemeni-Americans cry foul over passport revocations). Below is an excerpt from that piece with an unnamed State Department official:

State Department official familiar with the issue — and who spoke on condition of anonymity — told Al Jazeera that a majority of the passport revocations in Sana’a follow a similar pattern. “Virtually all of the statements say that the individual naturalized under a false identity,” he said. “They appear to be involuntary.”

According to the official, an internal investigation determined that the statements those revocations were based on were obtained under “confrontational” circumstances, with individuals alone in an interview room with an investigative officer and an interpreter who, the official said, treated their subjects “aggressively.”

“We’re talking about an inherently coercive and intimidating environment, without any independent supervision of the interrogator and his translator,” said the official.

A sample of the alleged involuntary statement is included in the complaint (see Appendix B). If the voluntary statements in these revocation cases are anything like those exhibited in Mosed Shaye Omar v. John Kerry, et.al. this would be a great mess.

Back in November, following the federal court decision in Omar v. Kerry ordering the State Department to return the passport improperly revoked by the State Department, we asked State/OIG about this trend and we were told that the OIG does not have “anything on this issue on which it can comment.” It was suggested that we check with Consular Affairs. And of course, we have previously asked the bureau about this, but we do not really expect them to address this in terms of oversight.

The court documents in the Omar case suggest that Consular Affairs is revoking U.S. passports contrary to the rules in the Foreign Affairs Manual. But this is not the only case. If all similar cases have the same threshold as the Omar case, it is deeply troubling not only because the revocation appears not to follow State Department’s written guidance, State also never seek to denaturalized the plaintiff.  Which basically leaves the plaintiff still a citizen of this country  but unable to travel anywhere.

We have been troubled by this practice but particularly by the allegations of coercion. We have had a difficult time understanding why Yemeni-Americans would incriminate themselves voluntarily and admit to something that obviously is detrimental not only to their welfare but also their future.  That defies human nature.

And no, we don’t believe that Consular Affairs is the right entity to review its own practices when it comes to these allegations. We’re hoping that State/OIG will look into this as part of its oversight responsibility of the State Department.

 

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New Law Authorizes Revocation or Denial of U.S. Passports to Certain Tax Delinquents

Posted: 12:58 am EDT
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On December 4, 2015, President Obama signed into law the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act,” or “FAST Act.” This is the first law enacted in over ten years that provides long-term funding certainty for surface transportation. DOT says that the FAST Act largely maintains current program structures and funding shares between highways and transit. It is a down-payment for building a 21st century transportation system, increasing funding by 11 percent over five years.  Read more here from the Department of Transportation.

Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 9.50.33 PMThere is also one item included in the FAST Act that’s related to the State Department and the traveling American public. Section 7345 provides for the revocation or denial of U.S. passports to applicants with certain tax delinquencies considered ‘seriously delinquent tax debt’ –that is, a tax liability that has been assessed, which is greater than $50,000 and a notice of lien has been filed. To be clear, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is not actually able to revoke or deny any American taxpayer a passport for delinquent taxes. Revocation or denial or passports can only be done by the Department of State. It looks like the IRS Commissioner will need to make a certification of “seriously delinquent tax debt” to the Secretary of Treasury, who must then transmit the certification to the Secretary of State for the actual revocation. The new law provides for a humanitarian and emergency exception, and issuance of a limited passport for direct return to the United States.

This is similar to the arrangement on passport revocation with child support obligation enforcement.  The State Department works with the Health and Human Services on Child Support Arrearage.  Under the HHS passport denial program,  noncustodial parents certified by a state as having arrearages exceeding $2,500 are submitted by the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) to the Department of State (DoS), which denies them U.S. passports upon application or the use of a passport service.

Via ‘‘Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act’’ or the ‘‘FAST Act’’ (PDF):

SEC. 32101. REVOCATION OR DENIAL OF PASSPORT IN CASE OF CERTAIN UNPAID TAXES.

‘‘SEC. 7345. REVOCATION OR DENIAL OF PASSPORT IN CASE OF CERTAIN TAX DELINQUENCIES.

‘‘(a) IN GENERAL.—If the Secretary receives certification by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue that an individual has a seriously delinquent tax debt, the Secretary shall transmit such certification to the Secretary of State for action with respect to denial, revocation, or limitation of a passport pursuant to section 32101 of the FAST Act.

‘‘(b) SERIOUSLY DELINQUENT TAX DEBT.—

‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—For purposes of this section, the term ‘seriously delinquent tax debt’ means an unpaid, legally enforceable Federal tax liability of an individual—

‘‘(A) which has been assessed,

‘‘(B) which is greater than $50,000, and

‘‘(C) with respect to which—

‘‘(i) a notice of lien has been filed pursuant to section 6323 and the administrative rights under section 6320 with respect to such filing have been exhausted or have lapsed, or

‘‘(ii) a levy is made pursuant to section 6331.

‘‘(2) EXCEPTIONS.—Such term shall not include—

‘‘(A) a debt that is being paid in a timely manner pursuant to an agreement to which the individual is party under section 6159 or 7122, and

‘‘(B) a debt with respect to which collection is suspended with respect to the individual—

‘‘(i) because a due process hearing under section 6330 is requested or pending, or

‘‘(ii) because an election under subsection (b) or (c) of section 6015 is made or relief under subsection (f) of such section is requested.

‘‘(c) REVERSAL OF CERTIFICATION.—

‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—In the case of an individual with respect to whom the Commissioner makes a certification under subsection (a), the Commissioner shall notify the Secretary (and the Secretary shall subsequently notify the Secretary of State) if such certification is found to be erroneous or if the debt with respect to such certification is fully satisfied or ceases to be a seriously delinquent tax debt by reason of subsection (b)(2).

[…]

(e) AUTHORITY TO DENY OR REVOKE PASSPORT.—

(1) DENIAL.—

(A) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided under subparagraph (B), upon receiving a certification described in section 7345 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 from the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of State shall not issue a passport to any individual who has a seriously delinquent tax debt described in such section.

(B) EMERGENCY AND HUMANITARIAN SITUATIONS.—Not- withstanding subparagraph (A), the Secretary of State may issue a passport, in emergency circumstances or for humanitarian reasons, to an individual described in such subparagraph.

(2) REVOCATION.—

(A) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary of State may revoke a passport previously issued to any individual described in paragraph (1)(A).

(B) LIMITATION FOR RETURN TO UNITED STATES.—If the Secretary of State decides to revoke a passport under subparagraph (A), the Secretary of State, before revocation, may—

(i) limit a previously issued passport only for return travel to the United States; or

(ii) issue a limited passport that only permits return travel to the United States.

(3) HOLD HARMLESS.—The Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of State, and any of their designees shall not be liable to an individual for any action with respect to a certification by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue under section 7345 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

According to the WSJ, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or Tigta, a watchdog agency, found that the IRS sent 855,000 notices to U.S. citizens abroad in 2014.

Treasury OIG notes that as of May 2014, the State Department estimated that approximately 7.6 million U.S. citizens live in a foreign country. It also reports this:

Even though the IRS sent approximately 855,000 notices and letters to U.S. taxpayers living in other countries during Calendar Year 2014, it cannot determine taxpayer response rates.  The lack of data on response rates for international taxpayers is problematic because this information is needed to determine the effectiveness of international correspondence on increasing taxpayer compliance and to make program improvements.

7 FAM 1380 which provides guidance on passport denials, limitations, and revocations is unfortunately behind the firewall so we are unable to see the specific updates in the Foreign Affairs Manual.

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Why Are Court Cases Related to US Passports and Immigrant Visas in Yemen and Pakistan Sealed?

Posted: 2:51 am EDT
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This past October, we blogged that the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California ordered the State Department to return the U.S. passport of Yemeni-American Mosed Shaye Omar which was revoked “based on the involuntary statement he provided at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a on January 23, 2013” (see Court orders @StateDept to return Yemeni-American’s improperly revoked U.S.passport).

While researching another court case, we discovered the Hasan v. State Department case. This is a case where the petitioner asked for judicial review of a US Embassy Yemen consular official’s decision of ineligibility for an immigrant visa on behalf of a minor child. Following the filing of this case and the closure of the US Embassy in Sanaa, the US Embassy in Cairo apparently became the post designated to handle visa applications from Yemen. US Embassy Cairo reviewed the prior ineligibility, reversed US Embassy Sana’a’s decision and issued the immigrant visa. The parties subsequently agreed to dismissed this case with prejudice at no cost to Mr. Hasan or the State Department.  Except for the court ruling stipulating the dismissal of the case, all other files related to this case are sealed in court.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 10.23.28 PM

1:15-cv-04312-GHW | Hasan v. U.S. Department of State et al.

A closer look at other cases filed in the New York District Court indicates several other court cases against the State Department, US Embassy Yemen, US Embassy Pakistan, Ambassador Matthew Tueller, Ambassador Richard Olson and related federal agencies have also been sealed.

We suspect that these are cases related either to U.S. passport revocations, non-issuance of U.S. passports or immigrant visas in Yemen and Pakistan.

Following the federal court decision ordering the State Department to return the passport improperly revoked by the State Department, we asked State/OIG about this trend and we’re told that the OIG does not have “anything on this issue on which it can comment.” It was suggested that we check with Consular Affairs. And of course, we have previously asked CA about this, but we do not really expect them to address this in terms of oversight.

The court documents in the Omar case suggest that Consular Affairs is revoking U.S. passports contrary to the rules in the Foreign Affairs Manual. But this is not the only case. If all similar cases have the same threshold as the Omar case, it is deeply troubling not only because the revocation appears not to follow State Department’s written guidance, State also never seek to denaturalized the plaintiff.  Which basically leaves the plaintiff still a citizen of this country  but unable to travel anywhere.

Which brings us to the question as to why these court files are sealed in court. It is possible that these cases all relate to minor children, could that be the reason for sealing the court records? Or is it something else?

Below are some of the cases we’ve located; all sealed unless noted otherwise:

1:15-cv-06425-NGG  | Abdu v. U.S. Department of State et al — filed on 11/10/2015. Defendants include Secretary Kerry  and US Ambassador to Yemen Matthew Tueller.

1:15-cv-05684-FB | Alzonkary et al v. Holder et al — filed on 10/02/2015. Defendants include Secretary Kerry, US Embassy Yemen’s Ambassador Tueller and CA’s Michelle Bond.

1:15-cv-05587-JG | Mansour Fadhil et al (on behalf of minor children). Defendants include Secretary Kerry.

1:15-cv-06436-FM | Al Zokary v. United States Department of State et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry and US Embassy Yemen’s Ambassador Tueller

1:15-cv-04312-GHW  | Hasan v. U.S. Department of State et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry and US Embassy Yemen’s Ambassador Tueller. The case was dismissed in August 2015 with a stipulation that it be dismissed with prejudice and without costs or attorney’s fees to either party. All files except the Stipulation are sealed.

1:15-cv-01767-ILG  | Hasan et al v. U.S. Department of State et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry and US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson.

1:14-cv-07093-PAC | Issa et al v. Holder et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry and US Embassy Yemen’s Ambassador Tueller.

1:14-cv-02584-ER | Alsaidi v. U.S. Department of State et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry and Karen H. Sasahara in her official capacity as charge d’affaires ad interime of the U.S. embassy in Sana’a, Yemen.  The case was dismissed in 2014 with a stipulation that it be dismissed with prejudice and without costs or attorney’s fees to either party. All files remained sealed.

1:13-cv-06872-PKC  | Mohammad et al v. Beers et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry. The case was voluntarily dismissed in July 2014, all files remained sealed.

2:13-cv-04178-ADS  | Arif et al v. Kerry et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry and Embassy Islamabad’s Ambassador Olson. The case was dismissed with prejudice in September 2013, with each party bearing its own costs, fees, including attorney’s fees, and disbursements. The files remained sealed.

One passport case from November 2013, 1:13-cv-08299-AJP Kassim v. Kerry is not sealed.  The case was dismissed in March 2014 with a court order for issuance of U.S. passport to plaintiff. “Within 30 days of the entry of this order, Plaintiff will submit to the Department of State a new un-executed but signed passport application (Form DS-11) with passport photos and a copy of the front and back of a valid government identification card. The Department of State will issue Plaintiff a U.S. passport book and a U.S. passport card within 30 days of receipt of Plaintiffs passport application and supporting documentation (described above in subsection 2(a)). This action is hereby withdrawn and dismissed with prejudice and without costs or attorney’s fees.”

One immigrant visa case from 2014, 1:14-cv-03748-KAM | Chaudhry et al v. Holder et al. is also not sealed. The defendants include Secretary Kerry and Embassy Islamabad’s Ambassador Olson. The case was voluntarily dismissed with prejudice in light of the State Department granting of an immigrant visa to Plaintiff.

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Court orders @StateDept to return Yemeni-American’s improperly revoked U.S.passport

Posted: 2:21 am EDT
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Back in April, a San Francisco man sued the State Department in federal court, claiming that American embassy officials in Yemen illegally revoked his passport and left him stranded in that country for more than a year. This passport revocation case was just one in a string of lawsuits alleging improper revocation of passports by the U.S. Embassy in Yemen.

On October 13, the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California ordered the State Department to return the U.S. passport of Yemeni-American Mosed Shaye Omar which was revoked “based on the involuntary statement he provided at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a on January 23, 2013.”

We suspected that the State Department would use its ace in a hole, which is Haig v. Agee, a ruling that upheld the right of the executive branch to revoke a citizen’s passport for reasons of national security and the foreign policy interests of the U.S. under the Passport Act of 1926, and it did. But the court was not persuaded.

This is not the only passport revocation we’ve heard out of US Embassy Sana’a.  But this is one of the most troubling cases. What kind of rules book was used there? It does not appear to be the Foreign Affairs Manual. And what’s the purpose of the Office of Adjudication if there is no stated burden of proof, and there are no rules governing the hearing itself?  We understand that there are/were approximately a hundred cases of passport revocation done at the US Embassy in Yemen. We don’t know if the Yemeni-Americans with revoked U.S. passports were issued single return passports to the United States, or were left stranded in Yemen. A hundred cases are not isolated cases. Frankly, we hope to see the Office of Inspector General look into this.

  • Plaintiff contends that his due process rights were violated when the State Department revoked his passport based on the involuntary statement he provided at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a on January 23, 2013. […] The statement was made after he had been detained at the Embassy for more than nine hours without food, water, or medication that he needs for his serious medical conditions; no one advised him of his right to leave, to be silent, or his right to consult an attorney; he did not read the statement and no one read the statement to him, and, to the contrary, it was affirmatively misrepresented to him that by signing the document his passport would be returned—the passport he required to return to the United States to obtain his needed medical care. Even if he had been given the opportunity to read the document, he would not have understood it as his English is not very good and his eyes were blurry and he was not feeling well due the deprivation of food, water, and medicine. He signed the statement without knowing its contents because he believed that was the only way to get his passport back.[…] Plaintiff signed the statement as “Mosed Shaye Omar.” It is puzzling, to say the least, why someone who understood that he was signing a confession that his true name is something other than Omar would sign the so-called confession under the allegedly false name Omar. Thus, this signature is consistent with Plaintiff’s testimony and further supports a finding that the statement was unknowing and involuntary.
  • The Hearing Officer based his revocation decision exclusively on the January 23 statement.
  • The Hearing Officer did not apply any standard of proof.”  [T]he same burdens that you might face in a courtroom don’t necessarily apply in this hearing.”
  • In resting his decision solely on the sworn statement, the Hearing Officer faulted Plaintiff for failing to provide evidence from individuals within Yemen who could vouch for his identity prior to his immigration to the United States—over 40 years ago. […] The Hearing Officer thus improperly shifted the burden of proof and faulted Plaintiff for not obtaining documents that the government itself acknowledged were nearly impossible to obtain.
  • Nor does it appear that Defendant Sprague, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services, applied a particular standard of proof to her review as she merely signed her name in the approved line on the Hearing Officer’s recommendation.
  • The Secretary claims that once presented with the “confession” it had no choice but to revoke the passport; it could not release the passport when it believed it was obtained with a false name. At the same time, however, for the more than two and half years since his passport was revoked, the United States has not filed any action, administrative or otherwise, to challenge Plaintiff’s citizenship. Instead, it has made it repeatedly clear that it is not challenging his citizenship and, indeed, if Plaintiff filed an action to reaffirm his citizenship, the government candidly surmised that it might argue that such lawsuit does not present an actual case or controversy because the government does not contest Plaintiff’s citizenship. (Dkt. No. 32 at 21- 25.) In other words, the government apparently believes it is proper to revoke a United States citizen’s passport on the grounds that he is not the person that the United States agreed he was when he obtained his citizenship, but then take no steps to actually challenge the citizenship and to instead leave the citizen in a state of legal purgatory. Such tactics at the very least raise serious questions.
  • Defendants’ only asserted interest here is in protecting the public from having a United States citizen travel under his legal name because the government believes that 30 years ago he applied for citizenship under a false name. And the government has not sought to denaturalize the citizen despite having more than two years to do so. The government’s claim of hardship is further undercut by its Foreign Affairs Manual:

(d) Questionable Certificates of Naturalization and Citizenship.

(1) (SBU) By law, 8 U.S.C. 1443(e), Certificates of Naturalization or Citizenship are proof of United States citizenship. Accordingly, an individual remains eligible for a U.S. passport until his/her Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship is revoked by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or a U.S. District court, or unless he/she is ineligible for passport services for reasons other than non-citizenship.

7 FAM § 1381.2(d) 6 (Dkt. No. 14-20 at 2). Thus, the government’s own guidelines provide that the proper course under circumstances similar to those present here is to move to revoke the applicant’s Certificate of Naturalization, not to withhold the applicant’s passport as was done here.

The Court notes that the USG admitted that the above quoted provision was in effect between January 2013 and December 2013. (Dkt. No. 19 ¶ 31.) The government contends that “Plaintiff has selectively quoted from the Manual in a way that distorts its meaning,” but according to the Court’s footnotes, the USG  did not “submit any other Manual provisions or explain how the above quoted provision means anything other than what it says.”

For the record, the State Department considers the section on passport revocation in the Foreign Affairs Manual as Sensitive But Unclassified material and this section of the FAM including the part cited above in court documents are not available for the reading public (also see US Embassy Yemen: Revocation of U.S. Passports, a Growing Trend?).

The Court’s decision:

The government revoked Plaintiff’s passport based solely on a written statement that Plaintiff signed without reading or understanding, and only after he had been deprived of food, water, and medication for hours and was desperate for return of his passport so he could travel to the United States to obtain medical care. Plaintiff has therefore established a likelihood of success on his claim that the revocation violated his right to due process and was therefore arbitrary and capricious. See Choy, 279 F.2d at 647. He has also raised at least serious questions as to whether Defendants applied the appropriate standard of review to his passport revocation and whether the revocation is an improper and incomplete collateral challenge to his citizenship. As the balance of hardships and the public interest tip sharply in Plaintiff’s favor, his motion for a preliminary injunction is GRANTED. Defendants shall return Plaintiff’s passport to him within 10 days of this Order.

This case is ongoing with a hearing scheduled for December 10, 2015 at 9:00 a.m.

Read in full here (court doc via Politico): Mosed Shaye Omar v. John Kerry, et.al.

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Stranded in Yemen: Americans left to find own way out, but exactly how many more AmCits are left there?

Posted: 7:01 pm EDT
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Via CNN:

“My son served in the army for four years. In Iraq. He served because we love our country. As we should. Now look at us?”
[…]
Muna is from Buffalo in upstate New York. Her family is among the dozens of Americans caught in the crossfire of warring parties in Yemen. And although many other countries evacuated their citizens, India most notably ferrying out around 5,000, the United States has said it is too dangerous for them to directly evacuate American nationals.

screenshot of CNN video

screenshot of CNN video

For Muna, her ordeal ended at Djibouti Port where Christina Higgins, the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission, was among the embassy staff waiting to meet them. I asked Higgins about the sense of abandonment Muna and many of the other Americans trapped in Yemen said they felt.

“We have one of the branches of al Qaeda that’s especially active. There’s the Houthis — neither of these two groups friendly to U.S. citizens. We’ve had to weigh very, very carefully what is the safest way, the best way for us to help them.”

Higgins said ultimately each U.S. citizen is going to have to judge what is best for themselves and their families.

“For many U.S. citizens, that’s going to mean sheltering in place. For other U.S. citizens, we’re actively working at getting information to them on different avenues for travel out of Yemen.”

Read in full here.

Also read: After hours at sea, chaos and desperation at Yemeni city

 

IOM announced today that it has temporarily suspended is evacuation operations in Yemen. It also says, “To date, operations continue to be hampered by unacceptable demands in regard to the identity of passengers to be evacuated by IOM. Security conditions within and around Sana’a airport have also worsened, affecting the ability of IOM staff to operate on airport grounds.”

 

Meanwhile in Djibouti:

 

Also this one on the DPB on April 20, we’re not sure which email is this referring to:

QUESTION: — between a Yemen – or a U.S. citizen stuck in Yemen.

MS HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: I know you can’t comment on the specific case —

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: — but just the language of that email that she had the exchange with, is that the kind of language that Americans still stuck in Yemen can expect?

MS HARF: Yes, I saw that email exchange. I think a couple points on that. The first is if you look at a majority of that email, it’s really the same messages I’ve been giving from the podium about the fact that we have been warning for some time, that we are trying to do things to assist. And we have a number of people – we’ve actually increased our consular staff in Djibouti to help consular services to Americans who have been able to leave Yemen. But we have consular officers who are working around the clock in Djibouti and elsewhere doing so.

I think, look, that language is probably not typical of the services we’re providing to Americans, candidly. I probably wouldn’t have used it. But I think looking at our broader efforts in terms of the consular support we’re giving to Americans, even in a very difficult operating environment where we don’t have an embassy, where we have been warning, we – our consular officers really are working very hard to get them what they need even, again, under very difficult circumstances.

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The State Department to date has refused to give an estimate a guesstimate on the American citizen population in Yemen. The OIG report back in 2010 estimated that the Yemeni-American community was about 55,000. Our source from Consular Affairs who is not authorized to speak for the bureau indicates that the most recent estimate is actually much higher than that OIG number.

Odd thing about this? There was a congressional hearing on Yemen several days ago. The congressional reps did not ask about this. The NEA principal deputy assistance secretary of state on that hearing did not talk about this.  And so far, we haven’t heard from the angry old men in the Senate chamber screaming over the abandonment of U.S. citizens in foreign country.

In related news, last week, the Council on American-Islamic Relations filedlawsuit against the U.S. government on behalf of dozens of Yemeni-Americans trapped in Yemen for failure to evacuate them.  Today, a San Francisco man has sued the State Department in federal court, claiming that American embassy officials in Yemen illegally revoked his passport and left him stranded in that country for more than a year. This passport revocation case is just the latest in a string of lawsuits alleging improper revocation of passports by the U.S. Embassy in Yemen.

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