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A Lexington mother whose husband has been stuck in Iran for nearly two years because of President Donald Trump’s travel ban has sued the U.S. Government.
The wife of Farshad Amirkhani, Fatemeh Karimi Alamdari, is part of a federal lawsuit on behalf of 14 Iranian American families who have waited months or years to be reunited with their loved ones but have not been given the waivers they need. The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
“We had other plans for our life. We didn’t know it would be like this,” said Alamdari, of Lexington.
Alamdari’s 14-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of more than two-dozen people. Alamdari and her children moved to Lexington after winning the diversity visa lottery in 2014, according to her California-based attorney, Curtis Morrison.
Alamdari said because of an error in the system, she and her children were awarded visas but her husband, Amirkhani, was not. After several months of attempting to get Amirkhani a visa with no luck, she moved to the United States in December 2014 without her husband with hopes of him joining the rest of the family there soon, according to Morrison.
It took more than two years for Amirkhani to obtain an interview to acquire a visa. Ten months after his interview, on Dec. 8, 2017, Trump’s travel ban that suspended entry to the United States for Iranian nationals went into effect.
The presidential proclamation provided some examples of circumstances when a waiver would be appropriate, such as when the foreign national was going to enter the United States to visit or reside with a close family member who is a U.S. citizen. Despite Alamdari and her children being legal permanent residents, Amirkhani has not been granted a waiver.
The lawsuit states there is no formal system to apply for waivers and very few of them have been issued. Amirkhani has remained in Tehran, Iran, while his wife and children are in Lexington.
“Fatemeh Karimi Alamdari has been raising their two kids in the United States without her husband, and it has been really hard on the family,” the lawsuit states. “Her children are always sad. They miss their dad.”
Alamdari and Amirkhani have not seen each other since she and their children visited him in 2015.
During the first couple of years he was separated from his family, Amirkhani sent his wife money, Alamdari said. Since the travel ban has been put in place, money transfers have been blocked. Alamdari lost her car and home and was forced to move in with her sister, who has lived in Lexington for more than 30 years.
Before reaching out to Morrison to file suit, Alamdari sought help from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office last year. Morrison provided the Herald-Leader with documentation of August and September emails between Fatemeh Alamdari and a McConnell representative, who exchanged emails with a consulate office. The representative said in September 2018 the case was still in administrative processing, according to the emails.
Morrison said Alamdari did not hear back from McConnell’s office when she checked back in on the case in January, but a spokesperson from McConnell’s office disputed that claim. Thursday, following an email request for comment to McConnell’s office from the Herald-Leader, the same representative from September called her and told her there were no new updates on her husband’s case.
A spokesman for McConnell’s office said in a statement to the Herald-Leader that “we don’t normally comment on active casework, but our office has been in touch with Mrs. Alamdari and has reached out to the State Department on her behalf.” The spokesman said Friday their records confirm a case worker from McConnell’s office spoke to Alamdari in January three days after she reached out to them.
She also emailed U.S. Rep Andy Barr, but she said all she received back was an advertisement for his campaign. A spokesperson for Barr said Thursday they do not discuss constituent casework with media.
Morrison said Alamdari and the other plaintiffs “tried everything.”
“It’s just so hard. It’s unbelievable for me to wait this long,” Alamdari said. “But we take it day by day and every day we have hope for tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow, maybe tomorrow.”
The 14 people Morrison is seeking to bring to the United States have waited on average 447 days since their applications were refused. Morrison is hoping to reunite families from all across the country.
Amirkhani had waited 592 days when the lawsuit was filed Monday, which did not include the ten months he waited after his interview.
“Those days have been filled with unbearable hardships and a constant state of distress that, absent intervention, will last indefinitely,” the lawsuit reads.
The ongoing conflict between the United States and Iran has also caused created more anxiety for the plaintiffs about their loved ones’ safety and security, according to the lawsuit.
Trump’s travel ban also affects Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and government representatives from Venezuela. Morrison won a lawsuit earlier this year to reunite seven Yemen families also affected by the ban, the Associated Press reported.
The Huffington Post reported in February more than 37,000 visa applications were rejected in 2018 due to the travel ban.