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CAIR-NY, Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County File Lawsuit Against USCIS Over Decade-Long Struggle for Refugee’s Green Card

(NEW YORK, N.Y., 10/1/2020) – The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) and the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County, Inc. today announced the filing of a federal lawsuit against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for unreasonably delaying the adjudication of an adjustment of status application for an Iraqi refugee.  

SEE: Lawsuit Against USCIS 

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff, Hatem Harej, is a native of Iraq. As a civilian living in Iraq during the Iraq War, Harej was shot by militants on two occasions, the first resulting in a bullet wound in his right chest and the second striking his vehicle and causing it to explode and Harej suffered severe burns from the second attack. Harej was targeted and threatened because of his Sunni Muslim faith.  

As a result of the attacks, Harej feared for his safety and well-being; and, in 2006, he and his family fled to Syria. While in Syria, militias confiscated his house in Iraq. In 2008, Harej applied for the US Refugee Admissions Program. Harej and his family (wife and three children) entered the United States in February 2010 under refugee status.  On March 9, 2011, Harej applied for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident status.  After a five-year delay, Harej submitted a second application for adjustment of status in December 2016.  USCIS has failed to adjudicate his second application despite the passage of more than 1300 days (45 months).  

In a statement, CAIR-NY Legal Director Ahmed Mohamed said: 

“Mr. Harej has waited patiently for almost a decade to get his adjustment of status application processed. Mr. Harej and his family escaped the violence and terror is Iraq seeking safety and security in the United States. Instead of being of welcomed, Mr. Harej and his family have had to needlessly suffered and his rights curtailed due to USCIS’ almost decade-long unlawful delay.  No immigrant applicant should be placed in legal limbo for this long, especially refugee applicants who have been thoroughly vetted. Immigrants should not have to resort to expensive litigation to have their applications processed and rights vindicated. This case is emblematic of our broken immigration system.” 

In a statement, Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County, Inc. Director of CNY immigration Program Sara McDowell said: 

“It is unacceptable that an applicant for adjustment of status, who was thoroughly screened as part of the refugee admission process, should have to wait nearly ten years for the adjudication of an application that normally takes less than a year to process.  Mr. Harej came to the United States seeking safety and security, after suffering violence and terror in Iraq, and has instead been forced to live in a state of limbo and uncertainty.  Mr. Harej deserves to have his application for adjustment of status adjudicated as soon as possible, as no screening or background checks should take so many years to process “ 

The lawsuit, filed in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of New York, asks the court to force USCIS to issue a decision on the pending adjustment of status application and seeks attorney fees and costs.  

In August 2020, CAIR-NY filed a lawsuit against USCIS over the unreasonable years long delay in ‎adjudicating an i-130 immigration visa application for a Yemeni family.  ‎ 

SEE: CAIR-NY Files Lawsuit Against USCIS Over Yemeni Family’s Reunification Visa Delay

If you or your loved one is facing an unreasonable delay in your immigration application, please report the delay at

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims. 

Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County, Inc. works to provide access to justice through engaging the legal community in volunteer service to those in need. 

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos. 


CONTACT: CAIR-NY Legal Director Ahmed Mohamed,, 646-481-2103 

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