December 12, 2018
At the fifth annual Iranian American Bar Association Conference, a Latham team, led by San Francisco partner Belinda Lee and Century City associate Ollie Rocos, was recognized with a service award for its pro bono work in Doe v. Nielsen.
In February 2018, the US government arbitrarily denied the refugee applications of a group of Christians, Mandaeans, and other religious minorities, who had fled Iran and were in transit through Vienna. These refugees had been invited to Austria at the invitation of the US government to complete the processing of their refugee applications under the Lautenberg Amendment — a congressionally enacted program permitting refugee admission to certain vulnerable groups. The program was historically successful, with nearly 100 percent of the applicants being processed in Austria and resettling in the United States within a few months.
However, our clients’ denials left them in limbo in Vienna, facing deportation back to Iran, where they would likely face persecution, imprisonment, or even death. Latham partnered with the International Refugee Assistance Project to file a successful class action that compelled the federal government to reopen every individual’s case in May 2018. Two months later, the court sided with the plaintiffs in Doe v. Nielsen, certifying a class of Iranian refugees and the US family members who sponsored their applications, and ordering the US government to disclose the basis of denying each individual’s refugee application—a momentous victory that guarantees our clients a proper and fair opportunity to apply for refugee status, just as the Lautenberg Amendment intended.