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April 21, 2021

Memo: House votes on NO BAN Act & Access to Counsel Act

 

National Iranian American Council (NIAC) Action is pleased that two of the most important bills for the Iranian-American community  – the NO BAN Act (H.R. 1333) from Rep. Chu and the Access to Counsel Act (H.R. 1573) from Rep. Jayapal – will receive a vote on the House floor today. 

NIAC Action strongly supports passage of each bill to guard against discriminatory immigration orders like the Muslim ban and immigration abuses at the border. NIAC Action urges all Representatives to vote in favor of the bills, and to work toward their passage into law.

 

NO BAN Act

On January 27, 2017, when President Trump made good on his campaign promise to impose a Muslim ban, tens of thousands of lives were 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 targeted Iranian nationals and deeply impacted countless Iranian Americans.

  • Iranian nationals and Iranian Americans were the policy’s largest target, even in the midst of the global pandemic. According to data on the ban’s implementation through January 2021, Iranians accounted for 71% percent of visas rejected under the ban. 29,839 Iranians had their nonimmigrant and immigrant visas rejected under the ban, out of a cumulative refusal total of 41,876.
  • Every one of those rejected represent families and friends separated from one another and dreams deferred, all due to an order that was rooted in a discriminatory campaign promise.

Thankfully, President Biden upheld his commitment to rescind the ban on Day one of his administration. However, the threat of the ban being reimposed will remain without passage of the NO BAN Act.

The NO BAN Act would help ensure this discrimination is never repeated by:

  • Preventing any President from issuing future bans like the Muslim Ban by altering the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Future travel restrictions would have to be temporary, based on specific, credible facts, and use the least restrictive means possible.
  • Adding an oversight mechanism for Congress on any future bans and requiring regular briefings to Congress on the status, harm and other impacts of the ban.
  • Expanding the INA’s nondiscrimination clause to include discrimination based on religion for any immigrant or nonimmigrant visa applicant.

Opponents will unfortunately continue to play politics with this important bill, endangering communities who have been impacted by the ban for more than four years. As they do so, it is important to keep in mind that:

  • Top Republicans spoke out against Trump’s call for a Muslim ban on the campaign trail, only to shamefully defend it when he implemented it in his administration’s first week.
  • The NO BAN Act does nothing to prevent the President from administering travel restrictions if they are meant to protect public safety or health. It also stipulates that they must be created on the basis of “specific, credible facts” and under oversight from Congress.
  • Visa waiver restrictions on dual nationals of select countries that were legislated via the 2015 omnibus were inherently discriminatory and received bipartisan opposition. They were exploited by the architects of Trump’s ban and should be rescinded.

The NO BAN Act represents a clear step toward justice and the culmination of the desires of both the Iranian-American community and the vast majority of Americans. The NO BAN Act is a strong bill, and we urge members to vote YES.

Access to Counsel Act

The Access to Counsel Act is a straightforward 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. During the Trump administration, dozens of Iranian students with valid visas were inexplicably detained, subjected to secondary questioning and 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 January 2020, 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 concerns of threats to civil liberties targeting individuals of Iranian heritage, we urge members to vote YES on H.R. 1573 as written and ensure that access to counsel is made available to both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa holders detained for secondary questioning.

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