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Since January 27, 2017, when President Trump made good on his campaign promise to impose a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering this country,” tens of thousands of families have been separated from one another solely due to Trump’s bigotry. Since that time, the Iranian-American community and NIAC Action have joined with allies across the nation to fight against the Trump administration’s blatantly discriminatory and unjust ban that has targeted Iranian nationals and deeply impacted countless Iranian Americans.
Thankfully, President Biden revoked the Ban on Day one of his presidency. Lawmakers celebrated this overdue decision to repeal the Muslim Ban as one in line with American ideals that will have no negative impact on national security:
Question: What is the Muslim Ban?
Answer: The ban was the first Trump immigration order rooted solely in bigotry, foreshadowing further targeting of immigrants and the administration’s assault on democracy writ large. The first order targeted most or all individuals from obtaining immigrant or nonimmigrant visas from seven Muslim majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Over time, some countries had those restrictions removed for geopolitical reasons – like Iraq and Sudan – while other non-Muslim nations were nominally added under the ban, like North Korea and Venezuela, to increase the likelihood Presidential Proclamation 9645 could survive judicial scrutiny. Later, a host of African countries were subjected to bans, increasing the total to 13 countries.
- Formally codified by Presidential Proclamation 9645, Trump’s third ban was upheld by the Supreme Court after protracted legal battles. The Supreme Court decided in the administration’s favor 5-4, despite the clear constitutional concerns and blatant discriminatory intent of the order, after the administration created a sham “waiver process” that was rarely used and included non-Muslim nations with minimal application.
- The ban sparked major protests at airports across the country, as outraged individuals saw firsthand the cruelty and chaos of detainments and deportations ordered solely on the basis of the President’s bigotry. Impacted immigrant communities and civil rights groups kept up the fight throughout the duration of the Trump presidency, and helped convince the House of Representatives to pass legislation repealing the ban and similar discriminatory policies.
Question: What did President Biden do?
Answer: President Biden signed a Proclamation ending the Muslim and African Bans, including the repeal of Executive Order 13780 and Proclamations 9645, 9723, and 9983.
- This means that the United States government will no longer deny immigrant and nonimmigrant visas to nationals of Libya, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Nigeria, Tanzania, Myanmar, Eritrea*, Kyrgyzstan, North Korea, and Venezuela, solely because of their country of nationality. Therefore the Muslim Ban will not apply to individauls who have applied for a visa but have not yet had an interview at a consulate.
- President Biden’s proclamation will likely not result in an immediate solution for those whose applications have been denied or are pending consideration of a waiver under the Ban. But, the President has ordered the Secretary of State to issue a report in 45 days on how those previously denied can have their applications reevaluated and to determine how to more quickly process those stuck in “administrative processing.”
Question: How has the Ban impacted the Iranian American community and other affected communities?
Answer: The Muslim ban has had a devastating impact on people across the globe, including countless U.S. citizens. It has deferred dreams, separated families, deprived people of life-saving health care, and blocked access to education and professional opportunities.
- 29,845 Iranians alone have been rendered ineligible for a visa under Presidential Proclamation 9645 through November 2020, or nearly three-quarters of all nationals presently impacted by the ban.
- During the Obama administration, more than 40,000 Iranians typically secured immigrant and nonimmigrant visas in a given calendar year. Thanks to the Trump administration’s discriminatory ban, this plummeted to little more than 5,000 visas issued in any given year before the onset of COVID-19.
- While some still sought to secure visas, other Iranians put their dreams of reconnecting with families on hold or sought to study or pursue their careers in other countries.
Question: Did the Muslim ban provide any security benefit to the United States?
Answer: No. The Trump administration never demonstrated that nationals of the targeted nations were in fact a security threat.
- As the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis indicated early in the ban’s implementation, citizens from the targeted countries are “rarely implicated in U.S.-based terrorism,” and citizenship itself – which the ban is based on – is an “unreliable indicator of terrorist threat to the United States.”
- Additionally, Iran was added to the list of banned countries because of its designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, a designation ostensibly derived from the actions of the government rather than any threat from Iranian nationals.
- Instead, there is a long track record of the ban being tied solely to the President’s bigoted campaign promise, including the President asking Rudy Giuliani how to do a ban “legally” and Stephen Miller saying that subsequent bans would be fundamentally the same.
Question: What is the path forward on implementing the reversal of the Muslim Ban?
Answer: With the ban being lifted, the Biden team must work quickly to restart the atrophied immigration process for affected communities.
- The Biden team will need to not just lift the ban but provide a pathway to ensure individuals from affected countries will get visas, even amid ongoing limitations from COVID-19. Since the U.S. and Iran do not have diplomatic relations, Iranians are required to go to U.S. embassies in other countries to conduct the necessary interviews. However, currently Iranian nationals have no viable pathway to secure a visa appointment, as nearby embassies are either not accepting visa appointments, like in Albania or are not accepting Iranian nationals such as in Turkey or the UAE.
- Moreover, the Biden team should ensure that those visa applicants rejected solely on the arbitrary and discriminatory basis of Proclamation 9645 or earlier bans are able and invited to re-apply. Similarly, the U.S. should seek to – at minimum – restore visa processing back to the levels before the Muslim ban was put in place once health protocols allow it.
Question: What becomes of the NO BAN Act with the Muslim Ban repealed?
Answer: An amended version of the bill could be reintroduced in the 117th Congress and President-Elect Biden should make it a crucial piece of his 100-day push on immigration reform. He has already included the bill in the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, the legislative package he sent Congress on his first day in office.
- While a portion of the NO BAN Act, which passed the House in July 2020, repealed a host of discriminatory orders, it also included provisions that would prevent any future President from further abusing the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and imposing blanket, discriminatory bans that only harm people and do not make Americans safer.
- In the INA’s current form, the 212(f) statute does not codify what factors determine whether an aliens’ entry is “detrimental” to U.S. interests, what restrictions are “appropriate,” and how long those restrictions should last. The NO BAN Act would remedy these gaps by curtailing the broad and unspecific language in the law and mandate the government to meet a more stringent standard in suspending entry based on “credible facts” and connected to “specific acts” that have occurred.
- The bill also created a process where Congress would be routinely notified and briefed on the status, implementation, and legal authority for the executive’s actions. It would also expand the INA’s anti-discrimination language by specifically prohibiting religious-based discrimination.
- Failure to address these gaps means that a future administration could follow in Trump’s footsteps by abusing its immigration powers and ripping apart families from one another.
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