National Iranian American Council (NIAC) Action is pleased that two bills of importance to the Iranian-American community – the NO BAN Act (H.R. 2214) and the Access to Counsel Act (H.R. 5581) – will be marked up by the Judiciary Committee tomorrow. NIAC Action strongly supports each bill as key steps to guard against discriminatory immigration orders, and urges the committee to pass them while rejecting any efforts to water the bills down.
NO BAN Act
Since January 27, 2017, when President Trump made good on his campaign promise to impose a Muslim ban, tens of thousands of lives have been thrown into chaos. 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:
- Iranian nationals and Iranian Americans continue to be this policy’s largest target. According to data on the ban’s implementation through September 2019, Iranians account for 68% percent of visas rejected under the ban. 31,077 Iranians have had their nonimmigrant and immigrant visas rejected under the ban, out of a cumulative refusal total of 45,662.
- The waiver approval rate for Iranians has only increased marginally to 6% despite efforts to speed up the processing of visas to produce more favorable numbers in advance of a Congressional hearing on the topic in September 2019.
- All of these numbers represent the human stories of families and friends separated from one another, all due to an order that is rooted in a discriminatory campaign promise.
The administration’s track record of discrimination and bigotry began with the implementation of the Muslim Ban. The legislation being marked up tomorrow goes a long way toward reining in the administration’s discriminatory policies while preventing any future president from abusing their powers. It represents a clear step toward justice and the culmination of the desires of both the Iranian-American community and the vast majority of Americans.
Not only would the NO BAN Act immediately repeal the administration’s Muslim Ban, but it would prevent President Trump, or 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 actually occurred. For more on this, please see our memo: How the Trump Administration has Abused the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to Ban Muslims from the U.S.
The NO BAN Act is a strong bill, and we urge members to avoid substantive changes that might water it down or undermine its intent. We hope this mark-up builds momentum toward passage, helping to end the ban and ensure that it is the last discriminatory ban instituted in the United States.
Access to Counsel Act
The Access to Counsel Act is a straight-forward bill that ensures Americans, green card holders and foreign nationals with valid visas who are held for secondary questioning for more than one hour are given access to legal counsel.
This issue has become especially pertinent to the Iranian-American community over the last several months. Since August 2019, dozens of Iranians students have been deported upon arrival in the United States. Many of those deported were unable to call an attorney or their universities, depriving them of advice as they were interrogated and eventually deported. In one case, a border patrol officer even refused to allow a student to call her university by claiming the authoritarian Iranian government would not allow her to make such a call. Similarly, in early January, hundreds of Iranian Americans were detained for hours based on their national heritage following a discriminatory order issued by the Seattle Field Office. Passage of the Access to Counsel Act would have helped guard against these cases and protect the rights of Americans.
In light of the continued concerning threats to civil liberties targeting individuals of Iranian heritage, we urge the committee to pass the bill as written and ensure that access to counsel be made available to both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa holders detained for secondary questioning.
Below you will find some additional materials on the Ban as well as more information of the recent deportation of Iranian students:
NIAC: Deportations and Detentions of Iranians: What We Know and What Congress Can Do
National Immigration Law Center: Understanding the Muslim Ban and How We’ll Keep Fighting It