WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congress took its first vote on the Muslim ban yesterday, as an amendment to protect family members from the Muslim ban was voted down by Republican legislators 23-29. The amendment, introduced by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), was offered during a markup of the Homeland Security Appropriations bill and would have would barred the Trump administration from banning close familial relations under the Muslim ban. In addition, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced, but later withdrew after an objection from a Republican lawmaker, an amendment that would go even further by defunding implementation of the entire Muslim ban.
The Pocan amendment would have restricted funding in the DHS Appropriations bill from being used to implement the Executive Order against an individual who is a parent, spouse, fiancé, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or cousin of a United States citizen or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States. Nearly all Republicans on the committee voted against the amendment, except for Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA). Rep. Dent was an early supporter of nuclear negotiations with Iran.
The Trump administration is currently implementing a version of the ban that was narrowed by a temporary Supreme Court ruling that the ban could move forward but could not be applied to persons with “bona fide” relations with an American person or entity. The Trump administration interpreted that ruling to exclude grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles and other close familial relations from being exempt from the ban. Today, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that grandparents and other family members of U.S. persons could indeed not be subject to the ban.
Pocan noted the importance of the amendment because the ban’s “arbitrary determination leaves countless people facing the humiliation of navigating a series of arbitrary rules that devalue family relationships.”
“We have the opportunity to broaden that [familial] relationship to match what the courts in Hawaii have decide,” Pocan added in support of his amendment.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) noted that “One of the greatest treasures that we have in life and one that unites all of humanity is our desire to be with our close family,” going on to state, “I strongly support Mr. Pocan’s amendment to ensure that grandparents, in-laws and other close relatives can visit their U.S. relatives.”
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), ranking member of the Homeland Security subcommittee, also voiced support for the Pocan amendment, stating that the amendment was necessary because “the admin took a narrow view of who counted as close relatives.”
Homeland Security subcommittee chairman John Carter (R-TX) was the only Republican who spoke on either amendment, rising in opposition to both the Lee amendment and Pocan amendment. According to Carter, the Muslim ban restrictions “are a valid exercise of the President’s authority.”
The Barbara Lee Amendment would have gone even further than the Pocan Amendment and would have restricted funding in the DHS Appropriations bill from being used to implement any element of the Muslim ban Executive Order.
According to Lee, her amendment “would prevent funds from being used to implement this very heartless Executive Order because [the ban] is just dangerous and un-american.”
The votes come in spite of the fact that not a single person has been killed in the US by a terrorist attack committed by people from the countries subjected to Trump’s ban.
The amendment vote is a major milestone as it was the first vote on the ban since it was enacted in January. Republican legislators have blocked a vote to rescind the ban on the House and Senate floor, and no hearing has been held on the ban despite its extensive impact on the Iranian-American community and other communities.