Today, after a more than a year of fighting back against the Muslim Ban, our community finally got our day in the highest court in the United States, which will decide whether a Muslim Ban will become the official immigration policy of our country.
As you recall, in one of President Trump’s first acts as president, he attempted his first Muslim Ban on January 27, 2017. On March 6, 2017, it was replaced with another executive order after successive losses in court. The embattled second Muslim Ban was again replaced with a third attempt, which also included an obscure and highly subjective case-by-case waiver process. The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) challenged every version of this unprecedented and unconstitutional ban in court.
But the Trump Administration did not stop there. As litigation was running its course as to the executive orders and proclamation, the Administration was busy looking for alternative means to accomplish the stated goal of a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
In May, NIAC was alarmed to learn of a new ‘extreme vetting’ policy proposal put forth by the Department of State which granted sweeping authority to consular officers to deny visas to applicants from the same Muslim-majority countries designated by the Muslim Ban. In response to this obscure and secretive new policy, NIAC sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the State Department requesting they produce documents related to ‘extreme vetting’ so that we could evaluate whether this administrative measure was being used as a “backdoor Muslim Ban.”
The State Department never produced the requested documents, so last week, NIAC sued.
In addition to court challenges, we made our voices heard in the halls of Congress. We told members of Congress about the stories we heard from the Iranian-American community of families being torn apart, patients not receiving life-saving medical treatment, and the world’s brightest students and researchers being stuck in a constant state of uncertainty. We told them about the drastic drop in visas issued to Muslim-majority countries by the Administration.
But more significantly, NIAC shared with Congress how the obscure case-by-case waiver process – which grants unrestricted discretion to consular officers with no set guidelines, policies, procedures or criteria on how to evaluate visa applicants – is being utilized to issue mass denials to visa applicants from Muslim-majority countries. Data produced in response to a congressional inquiry revealed that only two waivers had been issued, with this figure later being adjusted, without verifiable date, to 450 waivers.
For the past several months, NIAC has been voicing the concerns of the Iranian-American community on Capitol Hill and circulating a draft of reporting requirement legislation which we produced that, if enacted into law, would impose a requirement on the Trump Administration to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding the waiver process, extreme vetting, and the broader Muslim Ban policy and how they are all being implemented.
Irrespective of how the Supreme Court decides the Muslim Ban case later this year, Congress must step up and fulfill their duty as a co-equal branch of government and fully repeal the Muslim Ban and all of its various components.