4th Circuit Issues Biggest Blow Yet to Trump’s Muslim Ban

Contact: Shayan Modarres
Phone: 202 386-6325
Email: smodarres@niacouncil.org

Washington, D.C.  –– The National Iranian American Council issued the following statement in response to the decision today by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the lower court nationwide freeze of President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban:

“The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) applauds the decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the lower court ruling. While fundamental American values of liberty and freedom were under attack by the Executive branch with complicity from the Legislative branch of government, the Judicial branch intervened and upheld the promise of America.

“In the wake of January 27, 2017, the day that will be remembered in history as the day America imposed a Muslim ban, Iranian-Americans became a community in crisis. In almost any airport across the country, you could find absolute chaos, phones ringing off the hook, lawyers huddled around on the ground rushing to type up habeus motions, hundreds of demonstrators, and hundreds of thousands of people in a state of confusion. NIAC, Iranian American Bar Association (IABA), Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), and Pars Equality Center took on the role of first responders for our community.

“When we filed our lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Muslim ban in court, we set out with the goal of completely dismantling what we believed was an unconstitutional and unabashed attempt by the President to fulfill a campaign promise of banning Muslims from our country.

“The product of a hurried effort to get a cheap political win for the President, written by shockingly inexperienced and unqualified advisors in the White House, resulted in an executive order that was almost immediately enjoined by the courts as likely unconstitutional.

“The second attempt at a Muslim ban did not fare much better, being enjoined by United States District Courts in Hawaii and Maryland.

“While dozens of challenges to the Muslim ban were filed, the Iranian American community was the community most impacted by the ban – we stood unified and filed our own lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ban. Inspired by the stories of Iranian individuals that we spent hours talking to and drafting declarations on behalf of, we meticulously developed a factual record of ongoing harm to our community. Judge Tanya S. Chutkan granted our communities’ request to present live testimony, and we became the first case in the country to provide the court with in-person testimony about how this ban affected our community.

“While Judge Chutkan ultimately exercised judicial restraint in favor of the two nationwide injunctions already in place, she too was “inclined to agree” with the Iranian-American community that this executive order was unconstitutional.

“We are pleased with the outcome, but recognize that there is no time to breathe a sigh of relief as long as this administration decides that it wants to continue down the path of targeting Iranians and Muslims – and as long as Congress passively allows for the erosion of our country’s values and institutions. We are fully prepared to fight relentlessly, for as long as it takes, until we are viewed not as the “other,” but as Americans.”

# # # 


Trump’s Muslim Ban Back on Trial in the Ninth Circuit Today

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday, a three-judge panel appointed by former President Bill Clinton heard oral arguments in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as they consider whether to uphold a lower court decision from Hawaii placing a nationwide freeze on the Muslim ban. For the second time in the past week, President Trump’s inflammatory campaign statements targeting Muslims faced intense judicial scrutiny as the acting Solicitor General struggled to make the unreasonable sound reasonable.

Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, who also defended the ban in the Fourth Circuit last week, told the three-judge panel that “over time, the president clarified that what he was talking about was Islamic terrorist groups and the countries that sponsor or shelter them.” In what largely traced the argument made last week in Richmond, Wall continued defending the government’s position that the judiciary should disregard campaign statements by Donald Trump. “People say things on a campaign trail,” Wall said.  “We shouldn’t start down the road of psychoanalyzing what people meant on the campaign trail.”

Neal Katyal, solicitor general under the Obama administration, represented Hawaii and challenged Wall, saying the President has never disavowed his statements towards Muslims, a point which Judge Richard Paez raised earlier in the hearing.

“First, when he issued the first executive order, he read the title of the first executive order, looked up at the camera and said, ‘We all know what that means,'” Katyal argued. “And that is a reference to something else. And indeed, when he issued both executive orders, he had left on his website that very statement about the complete and total shutdown of Muslims.”

“Anybody who was watching the President knows ‘what that means,’” said Legal Counsel for the National Iranian American Council, Shayan Modarres. “President Trump was giving a subtle wink and nod to his supporters that he is on a mission to fulfill his campaign promise to ban Muslims from entering the United States, irrespective of how it violates the Constitution.”

Further pushing back against Wall with President Trump’s own statements, Katyal said, “even last month, the president said it’s a lot easier for Muslims to immigrate than Christian refugees from the Middle East, and that he’s ‘going to be helping Christians big-league.'”

In a succinct, yet high-impact, summary of the absurdity of this executive order against Iranians and Muslims, Katyal reminded the panel, “No president has done this.”

The fate of the Muslim ban is now in the hands of the Fourth and Ninth Circuits. If both courts decide to overturn the lower court injunctions, the National Iranian American Council, together with our co-plaintiff partners PAAIA, IABA, and Pars Equality Center stand ready to immediately take action and ensure that the nationwide freeze on the Muslim ban remains in effect.

Even as the legal challenges unfold, the Trump administration is actively searching for new ways to get around the courts and impose the unconstitutional Muslim ban in other ways. Earlier this month, an “extreme vetting” Information Collection Request proposal was unveiled by the Department of State in an emergency request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

“With the huge losses piling up against President Trump, the administration is getting desperate for a win, even if it is at the expense of fundamental American values,” Modarres said. “We saw that with the GOP health care bill, and we’re seeing it in the desperation to impose this ‘new and improved’ Muslim ban through ‘extreme vetting.’”  

The proposal, among other things, seeks social media identifiers and platforms, as well as 15 years of travel history including receipts, boarding passes and other supporting documentation. It is still unclear which visa applicants will be subjected to the “extreme vetting” requirements, but consular officials will be given a great deal of unfettered discretion and potential for abuse to make travel from Muslim-majority countries difficult or – in many cases – impossible.

The last day to submit public comment to OMB is May 18, and if granted, the emergency approval would be valid for 180 days. In an order staying resolution of a preliminary injunction motion issued last week, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the Washington D.C. Circuit said she was “inclined to agree” with Iranian-American plaintiffs that the revised executive order was unconstitutional. The Fourth and Ninth Circuits have not indicated when they will be issuing their decision.

The Fight Over Trump’s Muslim Ban Is A Fight Over America’s Identity

To be clear, this fight in court over Donald Trump’s Muslim ban is not an ordinary disagreement over immigration policy ― racism and discrimination are on trial, and concerned Americans are fighting back against efforts to make these the official policies of the United States. The intent behind the Muslim ban is becoming a central issue in ongoing lawsuits, precisely because a racist intent taints the law itself as racist ― and unconstitutional.

Yesterday, thirteen judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit considered whether to uphold a lower court decision from the Maryland U.S. District Court finding that the revised executive order likely violates First Amendment prohibitions on government-sanctioned establishment of religion through condemnation of Islam.

Facing intense questioning, acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall conceded that overt discrimination against a particular religious group would likely be unconstitutional, but insisted that the text of the executive order is facially neutral. He urged the thirteen-member panel of judges to not give Trump’s prior statements about Muslims “the least charitable interpretation.”

Even if the order was found to be neutral on its face, “it has a disparate impact on Muslims” said Judge Pamela A. Harris. She also expressed skepticism about Wall’s position. “Clearly the law has a disparate impact on Muslims,” Judge Harris said. “In what sense is it neutral?”

Judge Barbara Milano Keenan expressed concern over the broad nature of the order, especially in terms of the targeted six Muslim-majority countries. “You’re talking about 82 million people,” she said. “There has to be something about those people’s nationality that renders them suspect.”

Judge Keenan also repeatedly voiced concerns about the link between terrorism and nationals of the six listed countries. “What is it about their nationality,” she asked, that “renders them suspect or renders them dangerous? I don’t see anything in the text that does that.”

At several points throughout the hearing Judges Robert B. King, James A. Wynn Jr. and Henry F. Floyd referred to then candidate Trump’s prior statements on the campaign trail in the months leading up to the general election.

“[Trump has] never repudiated what he said about Muslims,” Judge King said.

Pushing back, Judge Paul V. Niemeyer questioned how far back the judiciary could reach when analyzing Trump’s intent. “Can we look at his college speeches?” he asked. “How about his speeches to businessmen 20 years ago?”

A number of judges questioned Wall about President Trump’s now infamous press release calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” which had been posted on Trump’s website since December of 2015, but appeared to have been scrubbed from the site moments before the hearing in Richmond got underway.

“So it doesn’t matter what the president says?” asked Judge Diana Gribbon Motz. “It only matters what the president does in his official capacity?”

Overall, judges seemed to express a great deal of skepticism that President Trump’s revised travel ban was motivated by a legitimate national security concern rather than the president attempting to fulfill his campaign promise to supporters that he would ban Muslims from the United States.

Wall asked the judges to give great deference to the president’s judgment in matters of national security. But Judge Keenan seemed unconvinced that the intent behind the executive order could not be considered by the court. She said Wall’s position could mean that a presidential candidate could, hypothetically, call for a Muslim ban every day for an entire year, sign a facially neutral executive order that accomplished that goal, and argue to the courts that they must ignore whether targeting Muslims was the real intent behind the order. The hypothetical was unintentionally similar to the case before the court.

In a clear indication that the judges recognize the urgency of this case as well as the legal and political significance, the court in the Fourth Circuit decided to forego the initial three-judge panel and skipped straight to the “en banc” or full-court panel of fifteen judges – 2 of whom recused themselves before the hearing.

Normally, cases are argued before a three-judge panel as the litigants’ last opportunity to be heard. Very rarely will the en banc panel re-hear a case that has been previously heard by the three-judge panel.

In fact, the last time the Fourth Circuit skipped the three-judge panel and went directly to the en banc hearing was in 1998 when it considered a challenge to a Virginia abortion law, which sought to require minors to notify their parents before getting an abortion.

President Barack Obama drastically altered the makeup of the conservative-leaning Fourth Circuit, appointing six of the nine Democratic appointees to the bench. Five judges were appointed by Republicans. Chief Judge Roger Gregory was appointed by President Bill Clinton in a recess appointment and was later reappointed by President George W. Bush.

While intent may be rejected as a central factor by some judges, its relevance is indisputable in the real world. If Trump is allowed to put racism into law, America’s own history unfortunately makes it quite clear what that can lead to. What started with a Muslim ban can bring back much darker chapters of America’s past to the present.

Make no mistake ― it is not just Trump’s Muslim ban that is being challenged in court. It’s the very idea that racism can be the foundation for the laws that guide America.

NIAC Joins Letter Demanding ICE Release Detention Records

The National Iranian American Council joined several other organizations in signing onto a letter to the Department of Homeland Security demanding the release of detention records from the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The release of detention records would provide advocacy groups with information needed to stand against the Trump administration’s attack on sanctuary cities and immigrants in general.

Organizations signing included the National Immigration Law Center and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, alongside 40 others.

The letter highlighted the Department’s legal obligation to comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). FOIA allows individuals and organizations to demand access to records.

The FOIA statute permits the withholding of information only if an agency reasonably foresees that releasing the information would be harmful to operations or its disclosure is otherwise prohibited by law. The letter argues that ICE overuses the excuse that a disclosure would harm its operational capabilities in order to avoid providing information.

The letter referred to similar FOIA requests filed by state representatives and law enforcement agencies as evidence for the necessity of greater transparency regarding ICE activities and of the broader policy implications of the issue.

The records being withheld are known as “Declined Detainer Outcome Reports,” which are meant to be released weekly. The reports detail which non-Federal jurisdictions in the country do not honor detainer requests issued from the federal ICE office. Given the inaccurate and misleading nature of information contained in previous reports, access to the data is required for advocates to have proper insight into the Administration’s immigration crackdown.

The letter demands access to previously released data on sanctuary cities as a minimum requirement under the FOIA.


Iranian-Americans Continue Fight Against Second Muslim Ban

The judge in the Iranian-American lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban indicated Friday that she was not yet ready to issue a new nationwide freeze on the ban. Instead, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan in the Washington, D.C. Circuit requested additional briefs from the Iranian-American plaintiffs and from the government side, in order for her to make a decision some time after May 5th.

The judge emphasized several times that she wanted any order from her to be meaningful and not just an “academic exercise” duplicating prior injunctions from Hawaii and Maryland. Lawyers for the plaintiffs and Justice Department were questioned by the court about what the ongoing irreparable harms are to the individuals and organizations, whether those harms were caused by the second executive order, and what the court could order to address those harms without judicial overreach.

The legal team representing the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and the other co-plaintiffs—IABA, PAAIA, and Pars Equality Center—presented arguments in support of their request for a third nationwide injunction, supported in no small part by detailed declarations from the four Iranian-American organizations and individual plaintiffs, as well as the live testimony offered on Tuesday of last week. None of the other dozens of cases challenging the executive order have requested or been able to provide the court with live testimony, which has assisted the Iranian-American plaintiffs in developing the most robust factual record in the country.

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In a notable exchange, lawyers for the Justice Department argued that President Trump does not have a dispute with the Iranian people, but rather that his dispute is with the government of Iran. Judge Chutkan quickly interjected saying, “but the [executive] order affects the Iranian people.”

The hearing today was limited to the request for a preliminary injunction to freeze enforcement of the travel ban until the court makes a final determination on whether the ban is constitutional.  

Once all of the oral argument was completed, the judge instructed both sides to prepare legal briefs that address her specific questions during the hearing. Specifically, whether she can and/or should issue a third nationwide injunction, what the parties believe an injunction tailored to specific plaintiffs would look like, and what authority the court has, if any, to order the Trump administration to resume normal visa operations as if the executive orders were never signed. Plaintiffs’ legal brief is due on April 27, the Justice Department’s response is due on May 2, and Plaintiffs’ rebuttal to the government’s response will be due on May 5.

This case will be a long, drawn-out battle, but NIAC and its Iranian-American co-plaintiffs are prepared for a marathon, not a sprint. NIAC extends its deepest gratitude to Cyrus Mehri, Mehri & Skalet, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and pro bono counsel, Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer for their continuing efforts in fighting for justice, fairness, equality, and the rule of law, as well as our partners Pars Equality Center, PAAIA and IABA.

Court Hears Live Testimony Ahead of Friday Hearing on Muslim Ban

Washington, DC – DC District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan heard live testimonials on Tuesday from members of the Iranian-American community in the joint lawsuit, Pars Equality Center, et al., v. Donald J. Trump, et al., brought on behalf of four Iranian-American organizations challenging the Administration’s Muslim Ban.

The plaintiffs in the suit are the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), Iranian American Bar Association (IABA), Pars Equality Center, and the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA).

Shayan Modarres, NIAC’s newly hired legal counsel, spoke at a press conference prior to the hearing, stating that “a ban on [Trump’s] visits to Mar-a-Lago would do more to help our national security than the Muslim Ban.”

He condemned the President’s racist attacks on Iranians and the labeling of the community as terrorists and a threat to the safety of Americans. He also reiterated that Congress could rescind the ban tomorrow if it summoned the political will but Congressional leadership has so far abrogated its responsibility to the courts.

Testimony centered on material impacts of the executive order on Iranian-Americans, including disruption of plans to visit family, legal complications for Iranian students studying in the United States, and the endorsement of stigmatization of Iranians and others targeted by the executive order as potential “criminals” and “terrorists.”

Mr. Babak Yousefzadeh, president of IABA, referenced countless cases received by IABA and the legal counsel provided to families since the order’s passage as evidence of the irreparable harm experienced by the community.

An important element in upholding the preliminary injunction is demonstrating the harm to Iranian-Americans as that which cannot be redressed with monetary damages, which would be inadequate because of the nature of the injury and the right affected by the executive order.

Dr. Leila Golestaneh Austin, executive director of PAAIA, discussed the order’s implicit affirmation of hate crimes such as the Olathe, KS shooting of two Indian men (who were targeted because the shooter thought they were Iranians) and vandalism carried out on the homes of Iranians in several locations as proof of such irreparable harm.

She also noted that targeting Iranians as terrorists will contribute to mistrust of civil institutions, especially among the youngest generation of Iranian-Americans growing up in the United States today.

The hearing was the first instance in which live testimony was heard in any of the several court cases filed against the executive order. Oral arguments will be heard from each side on Friday.


Joint Statement of Iranian-American Organizations on Detentions of Iranians

ContactJamal Abdi
Phone: 202-386-6408
Email: jabdi@niacouncil.org

As organizations that represent the Iranian-American community, we are deeply concerned by recent arrests of Iranians visiting and studying in the United States.

At least two Iranians are currently being held in custody by U.S. immigration authorities: Alia Ghandi and Mohammad Salar Fard-Hajian. We implore authorities to ensure these individuals have ready access to legal counsel and insist they be promptly released from custody. 

Ghandi, who traveled to Oregon on a valid tourist visa to visit her sister (a U.S. citizen), was refused entry by customs officers and instead arrested and sent to the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center in Washington. Ghandi has subsequently claimed asylum but remains in custody despite an obligation by US authorities to allow her the opportunity to present her case and remain in the US until she is heard. 

Mohammad Salar Fard-Hajian, an Iranian student living in Dearborn, Michigan, was arrested at home and is being held in Calhoun County Jail in Battle Creek, Michigan. Fard-Hajian’s roommate believes he was arrested due to administrative errors regarding his college enrollment status. 

It is impossible for us to simply write-off all of these events as mere coincidence or misunderstanding in the current climate. The recent spate of official policies and actions – beginning with President Trump’s first executive order to bar entry for Iranians and nationals of six other countries – are deeply troubling. Coupled with recent incidents of hate directed at Iranians and persons of Middle Eastern descent, including recent reports of graffiti targeting Iranians in Portland and San Francisco, a disturbing trend is emerging. 

As members of the Iranian-American community, we are active contributors to society who – like all other Americans – are entitled to live in peace and without fear of discrimination. As members of the Iranian diaspora, we are proud of our heritage and have deep connections to our ancestral homeland. We are committed to proactively engaging to protect the interests of our community and the values of this country. We encourage community leaders, lawmakers, as well as the President to take these concerns seriously so that everyone’s rights are protected.

Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB)
Iranian American Bar Association (IABA)
National Iranian American Council (NIAC)
Pars Equality Center
Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA)

NIAC Calls on Authorities to Release Second Detained Iranian Citizen Holding Valid Visa

Contact: Ryan Costello
Phone: 202-386-6325
Email: rcostello@niacouncil.org

The National Iranian American Council issued the following statement on the arrest of an Iranian citizen with a valid visa in Michigan:

“The National Iranian American Council calls upon authorities to release and explain the arrest and detention of Mohammad Salar Fard-Hajian, an Iranian citizen who holds a valid U.S. visa. Fard-Hajian was arrested Thursday in Dearborn, Michigan. NIAC has confirmed with the Dearborn Police Department that he was taken into custody and later released to customs officers. The department would not comment on the reason for his arrest. According to Arab American News, Fard-Hajian’s roommate believes he was arrested for failure to update his address, despite the fact authorities had his new address.”

“If these facts are true then the USCIS is treating a lawful visa holder like a criminal for what is likely a minor administrative mistake that may not even be his fault. Such heavy-handed policing does little to protect Americans, costs tax-payers unnecessarily, and terrifies the victim. NIAC insists that the USCIS immediately allow Fard-Hajian access to legal counsel, and inform his family, any employer, or educational institution he attends, of his whereabouts.”

“This news comes amidst an uptick in government harassment of visa holders and citizens entering the U.S. We are concerned this is further evidence of a discriminatory culture being promoted by Donald Trump and his administration, particularly towards people of Middle Eastern descent.”


NIAC Calls on Authorities to Release Detained Iranian Citizen Holding Valid Visa

Contact: Ryan Costello
Phone: 202-386-6325
Email: rcostello@niacouncil.org

The National Iranian American Council issued the following statement on the arrest of an Iranian citizen with a valid visa in Oregon:

“The National Iranian American Council calls upon authorities to release and explain the arrest and detention of Alia Ghandi, an Iranian citizen who holds a valid U.S. visa. Ghandi’s arrest raises a number of concerns that Iranians are still being unfairly targeted by immigration enforcement due to their national origin, in spite of court orders putting a hold on Trump’s Muslim ban.”

“Ghandi traveled to Oregon to visit her sister who is a U.S. citizen, where upon arrival a customs officer reportedly questioned her on why she had so many documents with her and subsequently denied her entry. Alia protested the deportation and was promptly arrested and sent to the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center. Alia’s sister has not yet been permitted to visit her in jail even though she has been detained for over 48-hours.”

“Alia’s sister claims she has since been asked if she wanted Alia – an architect – to remain in the U.S. and serve as a babysitter for her two young children. We understand that customs agents have a responsibility to ask tough questions, albeit in a respectful manner. According to Matthew dos Santos, Legal Director of ACLU Oregon, Alia has decided to claim asylum, which is her right, and the U.S. has an obligation to hear her case. Rather than being thrown in jail, asylum seekers should be welcomed, assisted, and permitted a chance to be heard by a judge.”

“Visitors from Muslim and Middle Eastern countries have long felt unwelcome at U.S. airports and the entry process – even with a visa – remains arbitrary. We fear that the Trump administration and its Muslim Ban executive orders have empowered a culture of xenophobia rather than professionalism within Customs and Border Patrol, as numerous examples including Ghandi’s demonstrate. Further, this climate of fear risks unduly targeting and diminishing Iranian’s desire to even pursue their dreams or visit their family here in the United States. The fate of valid visa holders should not be determined by the “luck of the draw” in which agent greets them at the border and detention should be reserved for criminals.”


Q & A: Would Trump’s Muslim Ban 2.0 Keep Us Safer?

Trump’s revised Muslim ban is set to go into effect this Thursday, March 16th. Since it’s announcement last week, we at NIAC have received an avalanche of questions from across the United States. In an effort to keep you informed, we posed the five most common questions that we’ve received to NIAC’s Reza Marashi and Adam Weinstein. Their answers are as follows.

Question 1: Iran is on America’s List of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Why shouldn’t it be on Trump’s Muslim ban list?

Reza Marashi: The Muslim ban list does nothing to punish the Iranian government for its inclusion on America’s state sponsors of terrorism list, and it is wrong to conflate the two separate lists. The punishment is almost exclusively felt by innocent Iranian nationals who seek entry into the United States for educational purposes, family visits, tourism, and medical care. It is these people seeking a positive connection with America — not Iranian government officials — that are wrongfully being targeted, and thus no tangible security or anti-terrorism benefits are derived from including Iran on the Muslim ban list. If the Trump administration truly believed the Iranian government’s inclusion on America’s state sponsors of terror list warranted Iran’s inclusion as part of a Muslim ban, it would have gone to much greater lengths to create carve-outs to ensure innocent Iranians were in no way, shape, or form affected. Its inability or unwillingness to do so further shows that this is a discriminatory Muslim ban rather than a necessary or well thought out national security measure.

Question 2: The new Executive Order respects the due process rights of visa holders. As a result, isn’t it now reasonable? Shouldn’t these countries – state sponsors of terrorism and hotbeds of terrorism – received extra scrutiny?

Reza Marashi: No, the new Executive Order is neither reasonable nor logical because it does not address the actual problem of terrorist threats facing the United States. Zero Iranian nationals have committed acts of terror in the United States that have killed American citizens. Meanwhile, Saudi, Egyptian and Emirati nationals account for 94% of terror deaths on U.S. soil committed by the foreign-born, and yet they are not included in Trump’s Muslim ban. Thus, the extra scrutiny being placed on Iranian nationals does nothing to address the Trump administration’s stated goal of preventing terrorists from entering the United States, and makes Americans less safe by focusing on what’s not an actual threat and taking our attention away from the extra scrutiny needed on what is actually a threat. Most importantly, no countries should be on a Muslim ban list because the very concept of blindly banning nationalities or religions is wrong and ineffective.

Question 3: Isn’t it reasonable for the U.S. to request additional information from Iran and the five other countries on Trump’s Muslim ban list? If these countries don’t comply, isn’t it their fault that visas cannot be issued?

Adam Weinstein: U.S. vetting procedures have always stood on their own and served as an example for the world to emulate. The suggestion that the U.S. should or would rely on dual vetting is simply inaccurate and an insult to the agencies that have successfully protected us.

More dubious is the notion that Yemen, Syria, Somalia, and Libya were banned due to their status as failed states with armed conflict. If the U.S. were to ban visas for all countries with ungoverned regions controlled by armed groups the list would have to include: Afghanistan, Colombia, Honduras, India, Israel, Egypt, El Salvador, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine to name a few.

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly has on numerous occasions suggested that vetting cannot occur in countries without a U.S. consulate. This assertion is very misleading because nobody from the banned countries receives a visa without visiting an embassy or consulate. For example, Iranians must travel to Dubai, Ankara, Yerevan, or elsewhere to attend visa interviews.

Thus, Trump’s list of banned countries is not based on a rational counter-terrorism policy response to events on the ground or actual threats.

Question 4: Iraq was removed from Trump’s Muslim ban list by strengthening its intelligence sharing with the U.S. Why can’t the other countries do the same?

Reza Marashi: Iraq was not removed from Trump’s Muslim ban list because of strengthened intelligence sharing with the U.S. Rather, it was removed at the request of Secretary of Defense Mattis, who feared it would hamper coordination to defeat ISIS, according to Trump administration officials. It is therefore accurate to say that including Iran as part of Trump’s Muslim ban will hurt America’s fight against ISIS, as U.S. officials noted last year that Iran is already helpful in fighting ISIS and we have a shared interest towards that goal.

Question 5: Acts of terrorism in the U.S. have not been committed by nationals from these six countries, but since their governments sponsor terrorism, isn’t it reasonable to expect that nationals from these countries might take such actions in the future and America should therefore take precautions NOW against that potential threat?

Adam Weinstein: The overwhelming majority of “radical Islamic” terrorism attacks in the U.S. have been committed by lone wolf attackers with no sponsorship. Such lone wolves include the Boston bombers, San Bernardino shooters, Orlando nightclub shooter, OSU shooter, and Fort Hood shooter. The only recent example of terrorism on U.S. soil that may have included some state sponsorship was 9/11 and the alleged sponsors are certain Saudi officials. It is also notable that all of these particular terrorists adhered to an extreme Salafi ideology that also views most Iranians as apostates.



NIAC Welcomes Court Order Halting Trump’s Muslim Ban 2.0

Contact: Elham Khatami
Phone: 202-386-6325
Email: ekhatami@niacouncil.org

Jamal Abdi, Policy Director of the National Iranian American Council, issued the following statement in response to a judge in Hawaii freezing President Trump’s second executive order to bar the issuance of new visas to nationals of Iran and five other Muslim-majority countries and temporarily halting admission of refugees:

“The court’s decision to issue a temporary restraining order barring the latest executive order imposing a Muslim ban is another triumph for American values over discrimination. The Trump administration has now had its attempt to impose a Muslim ban halted by the courts twice. Fortunately, Iranians will once again face a slight reprieve in that the ban will not go into effect tomorrow. Nevertheless, the back and forth struggle has already kept Iranian families apart and imposed turmoil on countless individuals, while doing untold damage to America’s image abroad.”

“We are reassured by Judge Watson’s decision to refuse to stay his restraining order even if the Trump Administration files an emergency appeal. Thus, only a stay from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals or Supreme Court would allow the Trump Administration to enforce its Muslim ban while the Hawaii court considers its legality.”

“It is important to recognize that court challenges, including the challenge from NIAC and our partner organizations in the Iranian-American community, will continue for months to come, and that the ultimate outcome is difficult to predict. While we can’t expect President Trump to see the light and withdraw his discriminatory order, Congress must show some spine and stand up for our constitution and democratic principles. The longer Members of Congress stay silent on Trump fulfilling his pledge to ban Muslims, the more emboldened Trump and those behind the ban – like Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions – will become in imposing their radical agenda.”

NIAC Panel on Capitol Hill Examines Trump’s Muslim Ban 2.0

“Some refer to it as the Muslim ban, some argue that it does not affect all Muslims so it is not a Muslim ban, that is up for debate. What is not up for debate is that it affects all Iranians. Iranians, of the six countries, make up 58% of the visas that are granted annually” said NIAC policy director, Jamal Abdi, in his opening remarks.

A diverse group of national security, immigration and legal experts examined Trump’s latest Muslim ban at a NIAC-sponsored briefing on Capitol Hill on Monday. The panelists discussed the impact on the Iranian-American community, the discriminatory nature of the ban and the likelihood of legal challenges succeeding in overturning the order.

He went on to remind the audience that although the revised ban is unlikely to create chaos at airports it will still create chaos in the lives of those impacted. According to Abdi those most affected by the ban include family members of Iranian Americans and the approximately 12,000 Iranian students who are studying in the US.

Abdi noted that successive US administrations have supported increased interactions with the people of Iran and Iranian students are the best example of this. “Those 12,000 under the new ban, they get to keep their visas, but if they leave they’re not going to be able to come back and any new students are going to be blocked for the foreseeable future” said Abdi.

“I think what is most upsetting about this ban is that it isn’t directed at the government. It’s directed against the Iranian grandmother who wants to come to her son’s wedding,” said the Atlantic Council’s Barbara Slavin.

David Bier who serves as the CATO Institute’s immigration policy analyst, questioned the rationale behind the ban in the first place and asserts that the threat of terrorism from foreigners is overstated.

Bier noted that the likelihood of being killed in a homicide in the U.S. is one in 14,000, compared to the likelihood of being killed by a foreigner in an act of terrorism on U.S. soil, which is one in 3.6 million. Thus, while the fear generated by terrorist attacks is real, the threat is actually much smaller than many expect. Further, Bier noted that there have been no deaths on U.S. soil resulting from terror attacks committed by nationals that would be subject to Trump’s bans, undermining the justification of the order.

“The fundamental basis of this entire order is premised on the idea that foreign-born terrorism is an extreme threat to the United States. Terrorism is a problem but you have to put it in context” said Bier.

So what was the purpose of the revised ban?

Amanda Frost who is a law professor at American University’s Washington College of Law thinks the new ban was tailored to try to withstand some legal challenges.

“The Trump administration is attempting to carve out all of the people with connections to the United States such as they have constitutional rights to return” said Frost.

Frost explained that this would make it more difficult to bring due process claims against the new order. However, Frost asserted that strong challenges will continue given the context of the order and its undermining of Constitutional protections.

“There’s a fair amount of context there that the Establishment Clause claim should still pose a problem for this new ban even if the due process claims are now somewhat ameliorated in light of the narrow scope.” The Establishment Clause prevents the establishment of laws that discriminate based on religion or national origin.

“You have to look at the history of it. And if you look at the history of this ban you can really see it derives from Donald Trump’s statement as a candidate on December 7th, 2015” said Frost referring to candidate Trump’s original call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”