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Groups Sue U.S. Over Lack of Transparency in Visa Waiver Program MOU With Israel

Posted: Feb. 23, 2024

For Immediate Release
February 23, 2024

Arianna Alston-Rosales,;;; Johnny Sinodis,

Washington, DC – This morning, Van Der Hout LLP, National Immigration Project, Center for Constitutional Rights, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and Muslim Advocates filed a complaint with the US District Court in Northern California requesting that the court compel the Departments of State (DOS) and Homeland Security (DHS) to respond to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted by Van Der Hout LLP on October 27, 2023, after DHS and DOS improperly refused to conduct a search or to respond to the request at all.

The FOIA request submitted by Van Der Hout LLP sought information related to the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the US and Israeli governments in July of 2023, allowing Israel to be a part of the “Visa Waiver Program,” which permits certain countries’ citizens to come to the US without a formal visa as long as those countries similarly allow US citizens to come into their countries. Neither department has produced any documentation in response to the request, and there has been no communication from the US government on the submission since last November. 

The court filing is the next step in seeking transparency about the US government’s  introduction of Israel into the VWP despite the Israeli government’s violation of its terms through its discrimination against Palestinian Americans seeking entry into Israel.

Johnny Sinodis, Partner at Van Der Hout LLP, said, Countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program are obligated to treat all U.S. citizens equally regardless of their background, and the U.S. government is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Visa Waiver Program’s conditions. In 2023, the U.S. government shirked its duty by entering into an undisclosed Memorandum of Understanding permitting Israel to create and impose a two-tiered discriminatory system: one for Palestinian Americans, and another for everyone else. Our community members and the American public have an unequivocal right to know the terms of that Memorandum of Understanding, and this lawsuit will ensure that their right is fulfilled.”

Amber Qureshi, Staff Attorney at the National Immigration Project, said, “Throughout the past several months, the US government’s lack of oversight and freehand approach towards the Israeli government has been on full display. This administration’s admission of Israel into the Visa Waiver Program is just one more example. We will continue working with our partners to ensure that the government delivers the transparency and accountability our communities need and deserve."

ADC National Executive Director Abed Ayoub said, “There is no excuse for the government to ignore this request. Thanks to the tireless work of our partners and allies, we are able to continue to hold the government accountable.”`

Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Attorney Diala Shamas said, “This administration entered into an MoU with the Government of Israel that discriminates against Palestinian Americans. It is yet another example of the Biden administration’s carte blanche approach to Israel’s flagrant violations of the law that long predated Israel’s assault on Gaza.”

Golnaz Fakhimi, legal director of Muslim Advocates, said, “The U.S. is complicit in Israel’s discrimination against Palestinian Americans at its borders, echoing U.S. complicity in Israel’s ongoing genocide of Palestinians and the racist enforcement of U.S. borders. This lawsuit seeks transparency into one piece of a much larger pattern of unacceptable disregard for our communities’ lives and dignity.”  


The National Immigration Project (NIPNLG) is a membership organization of attorneys, advocates, and community members who are driven by the belief that all people should be treated with dignity, live freely, and flourish. We litigate, advocate, educate, and build bridges across movements to ensure that those most impacted by the immigration and criminal systems are uplifted and supported. Learn more at Follow NIPNLG on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @NIPNLG.