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WASHINGTON, DC (April 23, 2024) – Today, attorneys presented oral arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Sandra Muñoz, a U.S. citizen and California civil rights attorney who has spent nearly 10 years apart from her husband after the State Department denied his visa without reason.  

Attorneys from the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), Eric Lee of Diamante Law Group, and Erwin Chemerinsky of University of California, Berkeley Law School are co-counsel in the case U.S. Department of State v. Muñoz to defend U.S. citizens' right to know the reasoning for their spouses’ visa denials so that they have a fair opportunity to challenge those decisions.  

“The government argued today that the Executive Branch has the power to exclude the spouses of U.S. citizens without giving a reason,” said Eric Lee of Diamante Law Group, who argued the case. “I was heartened to hear the justices press the government over their more extreme arguments. We await a decision later this year.” 

Ms. Muñoz and Mr. Asencio-Cordero have been forced to live apart since 2015, when an officer at the U.S. consulate in El Salvador denied Mr. Asencio-Cordero’s application for an immigrant visa with no explanation apart from a cite to a broad legal provision that gave no information as to the actual basis for the decision. The couple has spent years challenging the denial in federal court, learning long after the visa decision became final, and only through litigation, that the State Department denied the visa based on false and unsubstantiated allegations that Mr. Asencio-Cordero was a gang member. The State Department has never provided any basis for the determination, other than a vague reference to a criminal record that Mr. Asencio-Cordero does not in fact have, tattoos that do not indicate gang ties, and other undisclosed factors the government says were revealed at his interview. Despite prevailing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2023, the couple remains separated. 

“NIJC is proud to represent Sandra Muñoz and Luis Asencio Cordero as they seek the chance to respond to the erroneous denial of Luis's visa. The right to due process is fundamental to our legal system, and we're hopeful that the Supreme Court will recognize that in this case,” said Keren Zwick, director of litigation at the National Immigrant Justice Center. “We're hopeful that the Court will not undermine the fundamental right to marriage in this case and give our clients a chance to rebut the error made by the consulate when it denied Luis a visa to reunite with his wife in the United States. Our co-counsel, Mr. Lee, articulated for the court why the government's extreme position should not be adopted here.” 

Last month, dozens of individuals and organizations, including members of Congress, former immigration and consular officers, the American Bar Association, law professors, advocates, and faith-based groups submitted amicus briefs to the Court in support of Ms. Muñoz.