Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council is appalled by the revelation that, despite the Trump Administration’s claims that there is a “waiver” process to ensure his Muslim ban does not target family members of Americans, only two such waivers had been issued by Feb. 15 – out of 8,406 visa applications from “banned” countries. NIAC applauds the efforts of Senators Jeff Flake and Chris Van Hollen, who uncovered this information as part of an inquiry to the State Department.
“This would be laughable if it didn’t impact so many families in the U.S. and around the world,” said NIAC Vice President for Policy Jamal Abdi. “Trump is carrying out his Muslim ban with zero Congressional oversight and the failure of his so-called ‘waiver’ process is likely just the tip of the iceberg.”
Following several court orders blocking previous versions of the Muslim ban, the Trump administration instituted an indefinite ban in October. To mollify critics – and address an decision from the Supreme Court that the administration could not bar family members of Americans and other applicants with “bona fide” relations in the U.S. – President Trump issued Proclamation 9645. The updated ban indicates that a waiver can be granted to visa applicants from targeted countries if certain criteria are met – and even referenced the entry of family members as one example of when a waiver could be issued.
As indicated in the State Department response, the decision to issue waivers is left up to the discretion of individual consular officers. According to the State Department letter, out of more than 6,000 applicants whose applications were not refused for issues unrelated to the Proclamation, only 2 were ultimately approved for a waiver as of February 15. The State Department now says that 100 waivers have since been issued – meaning still less than one tenth of one percent of applicants have received the waivers.
“The Trump administration has not won a single court decision on the merits of its ban, yet the policy has been allowed to continue in large part because Congress has failed to vote on the ban or conduct oversight over its implementation,” said Abdi. “If Congress lacks the political will to repeal the ban, the least they can do is build on the efforts of Senators Flake and Van Hollen to conduct serious oversight to ensure there aren’t even more egregious abuses.”