U.S. high court upholds secret denial of visas

Costa Ricans who apply here for a visa to enter the United States never get a detailed reason if they are denied.

This is one of the situations that creates hard feelings.

The best that a consular official will offer is that the United States is unable to issue a visa at this time.

For many expats this seems unAmerican at least in that there may be some kind of paperwork mixup that led to confusing the Costa Rican applicant with someone with a similar name. The right to confront an accuser is inshrined in Anglo-Saxon law.

There are many reasons consular officials might reject a visa applicant even after the individual has paid for the brief interview at the U.S. Embassy. Having a California driver’s license is one such reason, but the applicant never is told this.

The consular official, a U.S. citizen, has the benefit of advance notice of the visa appointment and a host of U.S. data bases that might reveal reasons why the applicant is not being truthful or eligible for a visa.

The consular official is seeking to find out if the applicant really wants to go to the United States to work illegally or for some other unstated reason.

Just like the U.S. no-fly list that contains thousands of names, court have upheld the government’s right not to disclose a reason. A recent case in Costa Rica was that of a Muslim graduate of the University for Peace who sought to return home to California. He was refused boarding at Juan Santamaría without a reason. He ended up flying to the Mexican border and walking across to his home in the United States.

In the complicated case announced Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court stood behind the U.S. State Department’s lack of transparency with a visa applicant.  The case was that of Afghan citizen Kanishka Berashk, who was turned down for a visa in 2009 vaguely for being involved in terrorist activities.

He wanted to join his wife,  Fauzia Din, in the United States. She came as a refugee to the United States and became a citizen in 2007. As a non-resident alien, her husband could not sue, but she claimed that denying him a visa violated her constitutional rights.

The opinion in the 5-4 decision was by Justice Antonin Scalia. He said there was no violation of rights.

The case was remanded to a lower court.

Scalia noted in his opinion that Ms. Din was not forbidden from getting married. “Those right-to-marry cases cannot be expanded to include the right Din argues for — the right to live in the United States with one’s alien spouse,” Scalia said.

Ms. Din had also argued that she had a constitutional right to receive an explanation for the visa denial, based on marriage rights.

Din’s lawyers believe the visa denial was related to the fact that Berashk had worked as a clerk in the Afghan government when the country was controlled by the Taliban.

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