Due Process at Consulates

Stories of unfair US Consular Decisions abound. People meet all the requirements of getting a particular visa, and the consulate officer denies the visa based on his or her innate prejudices. The denied applicant can almost always do nothing.

The petitioning entity in the US can usually appeal to a Congressman or Senator, who can demand the reason for the denial. However previously the Consulate did not have to give a reason for that denial under the Consular non reviewability doctrine. Under the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, The Government cannot deny any person in the United States any rights without due process.  This usually means a hearing from the applicant and a right of the applicant to defend himself. This due process was denied to individuals who were not “in” the United States. Furthermore, a Consulate decision, no matter how egregious, was not reviewable by a Federal Court in the United States.

The Appellate Court in New York (2nd Circuit) changed that in Ramadan v Napolitano. The Court held that Federal Courts have the right to review Consulate decisions, and that Consulate posts need to provide an opportunity for individuals to explain their case.  This case involved a Muslim Scholar, Mr. Ramadan who was denied a visitor’s visa on the basis of the fact that he contributed money to a terrorist group that had ties to Hamas. However the contributions were made between 1998 and 2002.  The US did not designate this group as a terrorist group until August 2003.  Therefore Mr. Ramadan could not have known that he was making contributions to a terrorist group.

It is yet to be seen what influence this case will have in Consulates such as Chennai, which has the distinction of having the highest visa denials.  Will they provide the applicants with a hearing, and if so, is this hearing going to be of any length of time to be meaningful? Additionally, many people applying for visas all over the world have limited English knowledge, and may be made to sign papers which does not state the truth.

The Rule of Law is a high ideal and although most consulate officers follow it, many are still governed by innate prejudices against little people, little corporations. Yet these are the very people that the Constitution seeks to protect. Additionally these little individuals will not have the resources to appeal their case in an US Court of Law. At the very least, maybe the documents required to prove that an applicant has the “facially legitimate and bona fide” rights to a visa, will be the same for employees of big Corporations and little start up corporations. At least this is a step in the right direction.

Contact Houston Immigration Lawyer, Annie Banerjee, for more information

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