DAWN Joins Litigation Alleging Discrimination, Seeking Injunction to Stop Israel's Entry into Visa Waiver Program
(Washington D.C., September 27, 2023) – The Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and State should suspend Israel's entry into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) until pending litigation alleging the program unlawfully discriminates against U.S. citizens of Palestinian origin is resolved, said Democracy for the Arab World Now today.
DAWN's Director of Advocacy for Israel/Palestine is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, led by the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and filed in the Eastern District of Michigan, that seeks an injunction against the government's admission of Israel to the VWP. The deadline for Israel to be admitted to the VWP is September 30.
"The U.S. should halt implementation of the visa waiver for Israel at least until a judge reviews what we believe to be the government's arbitrary and capricious actions that enshrine Israeli apartheid in a U.S. program," said Adam Shapiro, DAWN's Director of Advocacy for Israel/Palestine. "Our government should not allow Israel to discriminate against Americans, regardless of their national origins."
The lawsuit, brought under the Administrative Procedures Act, alleges that DHS and the State Department took arbitrary and capricious action to redefine the Visa Waiver Program statute rule requiring reciprocal privileges for U.S. citizens. The July 19, 2023 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the DHS, the State Department and the government of Israel allows Israel to offer differential treatment to U.S. citizens based on their national or ethnic identity. For example, Palestinian-American U.S. citizens who are on the Palestinian Population Registry are divided into those with West Bank ID and those with Gaza ID, and each are subjected to different rules and treatment. Under the MOU, Gaza is off-limits, including to those with Gaza ID and family in Gaza. The lawsuit alleges that these classes effectively permit disparate and discriminatory treatment against U.S. citizens.
"Separate can never be equal, as was determined decades ago in the fight for civil rights in this country," said Adam Shapiro, DAWN's Director of Advocacy for Israel/Palestine. "Forty countries participate in the VWP, and none have formal arrangements to discriminate against American citizens; only Israel has demanded and been granted this unconscionable favor by the U.S. government."
According to the Administrative Procedures Act, which allows for judicial review of executive branch agency actions, agencies such as DHS and the State Department cannot arbitrarily change the rules of a statute. The lawsuit describes how the experiences of Palestinian-Americans since July 20, 2023, including those by Plaintiffs in the suit, are patent examples of Israeli discrimination. The Plaintiffs in the case are seeking a temporary restraining order to halt the process and demanding judicial review of the arbitrary and capricious action taken by DHS and DOS in enshrining Israeli apartheid in a U.S. program.