In April 2019, the United States government designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) aka Sepah or Pasdaran, a terrorist organization. Designating a group as a terrorist organization carries serious immigration repercussions for members of the group, including grounds for inadmissibility that are nearly impossible to overcome. IRGC is, in fact, a branch of the Iranian armed forces that operates independent of the regular army. The designation as a terrorist organization is retroactive, which means any person who has ever served under the IRGC banner, even prior to 2019, is now subject to the terrorist bar and ineligible for any U.S. visas.
This has created an arbitrary and capricious retroactive trap for certain Iranian men, who have and remain subject to a 2-year mandatory military service. They may complete their duty under any of the branches of regular military (Artesh) or under IRGC/Sepah. Unfortunately, draftees don’t have a choice in where they get to perform this mandated military service. They are literally lined up, given numbers that are randomly drawn, and then are told where to report for duty based on a lottery as their number is called. Now, those that have served in the IRGC or will do so will lose their ability to enter the U.S.
Regardless of the intent of the terrorist designation, the results have been devastating for ordinary Iranians who don’t have a choice in how their country is governed. For example, if a draftee is assigned to IRGC, failure to report for duty will be cause for imprisonment in harsh Iranian prisons, and may even carry a death sentence. The retroactivity nature of the designation means that young men forced to serve their 2-year mandatory service in IRGC in say 1996, are now ne ineligible for a U.S. visa in 2021.
The dragnet set up by the IRGC terror ban is overbroad and consequently ineffective. Since 2019, thousands of families have been affected by the designation and because there are no waivers, the visa denials are final. The U.S. government doesn’t care what the reasons were, or your particular situation, they just deny, deny, deny. The blanket designation requires this nondiscretionary result.
The injustice is real and ripe for challenge. We just filed suit in federal court, asking the court to carve out an exception so every case can be decided on its own merits. If a visa applicant willingly served and/or rose up in the IRGC ranks, the intent of the designation is clear and the person should be denied a U.S. visa. However, if service was forced and was inconsequential, the applicant deserves a fair shot at a U.S. visa. Blanket denials based on assumptions are wrong and un-American.
AILA members considering filing litigation may find the resources on aila.org helpful: AILA Impact Litigation Updates and Practitioner Litigation Tools