Donald Trump has seized on the terror attack in New York this past week to advance a political agenda that directly threatens the Iranian-American community.
Immediately following the attack in Manhattan on Tuesday, the President took to Twitter – not to offer leadership or any pragmatic policies to address such acts – but to exploit the event for political gain. He attacked his political opponents and doubled-down on his calls to close off the United States to the outside world.
Iranian Americans have witnessed firsthand how this administration has utilized supposed national security policies to marginalize immigrant communities – starting with the Muslim ban and attempts to circumvent courts to ban grandmothers. Now, President Trump is exploiting New York’s tragedy to call for an increase in his “extreme vetting” policy and a shutdown of our nation’s diversity visa program.
Sadly, even as the courts have suspended President Trump’s attempts at a Muslim ban, he has managed to at least partially enact a de facto ban via this “extreme vetting” policy. As a result, we have seen a dramatic decrease in visas issued to individuals from Muslim-majority countries, particularly countries on Trump’s initial Muslim ban list.
Meanwhile, Trump’s allies in Congress have seized on the attacks to call for the dismantling of the diversity visa program – and even signaling out the large number of Iranian beneficiaries of the program as a reason for termination. Senator David Perdue (R-GA) tweeted:
Did you know IRAN – the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism – was the 3rd highest recipient of Diversity Lottery visas in 2016?
— David Perdue (@sendavidperdue) November 2, 2017
Many Iranian Americans would not be here were it not for the programs that Trump is working to shut down. If Trump’s policies had been in place over the past four decades, there would be no Iranian-American community.
Instead of serving Americans, the President and his allies’ agenda has fostered insecurity in the lives of millions across the country – offering the promise of trading our liberties for security, and placing the brunt of those sacrifices on immigrant communities. Supposed security policies like the Muslim Ban and “extreme vetting” are not rooted in any serious thinking about national security but instead based on bigotry and campaign rally rhetoric. Bans do not work. None of the attacks in the United States – from September 11th to what just happened in New York – would have been prevented by President Trump’s Muslim Ban.
In fact, the President has actually exacerbated the threat of terrorism for this country. No matter how “extreme” Trump’s vetting policy becomes, a significant body of scholarship suggests that radicalization often occurs within the country where the attack takes place. And President Trump’s own targeting and vilification of Muslims has only contributed to radicalization efforts by terrorist groups.
Meanwhile, whether it be from his reluctance to take a firm stand against the White supremacist violence in Charlottesville, a refusal to even debate the causes of the horrific massacre in Las Vegas, or his reaction to the ISIS-inspired attack in New York City, the President has failed to address terrorism in any serious manner when it actually happens.
Our leaders should indeed be resolute in defending our country. That means not just protecting territory but also protecting the fundamental rights and values that make America great. These two goals are not mutually exclusive. The courts have done their due diligence in assessing whether President Trump’s various actions are constitutional, but it is not their responsibility to determine what most benefits the country. This latter question must be answered by our elected representatives.
Unfortunately, the refusal by many in Congress to allow a vote to rescind the deeply flawed Muslim Ban or even question how “extreme vetting” is really being implemented lends these policies the aura of a Congressional imprimatur and detracts from real solutions to threats. This inaction by Congress permits President Trump to continue to politicize tragedy and exposes our nation to greater risks than any terrorist can inflict. Congress must no longer serve as enablers for this behavior. It is time for lawmakers to rescind the Muslim ban and investigate Trump’s “extreme vetting” efforts that have already done so much damage to our country – and for their voters to hold them accountable if they refuse.
In a committee oversight hearing on the refugee admissions program, House Representative Steve King accused “rogue” judges who have blocked Trump’s unconstitutional Muslim ban of overstepping their powers. In his statement, King – who has championed Trump’s Muslim ban and been an outspoken anti-Muslim advocate on Capitol Hill – reveals a disturbing misunderstanding of the system of checks and balances provided by the U.S. constitution and an alarming ignorance of immigration legislation in this country.
“I hope that this full Judiciary Committee one day soon addresses the rogue judges that we have in this country, and this includes also Judge Watson out in Hawaii and the judge in Washington that seem to be the venue shopping people that decide that they’re going to challenge the statutes of the United States duly passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by the president of the United States,” King said. He followed the statement with the assertion that Congress “doesn’t say that a judge anywhere can look over his shoulder and determine that his judgement is flawed and their judgement is superior,” ignoring an essential characteristic of U.S. government — the separation of powers.
It is, in fact, the judicial branch’s duty to step in when Congress or the President is in violation of the Constitution. Judges, tasked with interpreting the law, have seen Trump’s Muslim ban as a clear violation of the religious liberty and due process afforded to citizens and immigrants alike by the U.S. Constitution. King peddling the idea that these judges are violating the Constitution demonstrates how far Trump’s backers have drifted away from foundational principles to back his outrageous discriminatory actions. Furthermore, the charge that plaintiffs are venue shopping, or choosing to bring claims in certain jurisdictions or before particular judges, is absurd considering that there are individuals impacted by this ban in nearly every jurisdiction in the U.S.
In addition, King’s retrograde views on immigration policies, although unsurprising from a man who has displayed a Confederate flag on his desk, are not based on fact. “It’s very clear,” King said, “Congress has granted the President the authority to determine who comes and who goes from the United States of America with the security interests of America in mind,” seemingly basing this assertion on outdated legislation.
Congress adopted a provision in 1952 stating that the president “may by proclamation and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens and any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants,” although this provision was essentially nullified when the Immigration and Nationality Act passed in 1965. While the president is still granted wide authority on the subject of immigration, this legislation banned discrimination against immigrants on the basis of national origin, something that Trump’s Muslim ban clearly does.
The judicial branch’s injunctions against this ban clearly rest on firm legislative and constitutional grounds. Any attempts by King to characterize these judges as legislating from the bench blatantly ignore both historical precedent and constitutional law.
We just FULLY blocked Muslim Ban 3.0!
Moments ago, Judge Theodore Chuang granted our Motion for Preliminary Injunction which blocks Muslim Ban 3.0 from going into effect for the duration of our lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Maryland.
This goes well beyond the decision yesterday from the Judge in Hawaii who only issued a temporary restraining order.
Muslim Ban 3.0 was supposed to go into effect today, October 18, and would have blocked visas for Iranians indefinitely. Instead, we just blocked the ban for the duration of our lawsuit.
Although we have a long road ahead, we are extremely pleased with this outcome. A Muslim Ban cannot become the official immigration policy of the United States, and we will do everything in our power to make sure it never does.
Over the last few weeks, we have heard from so many of you sharing your heartbreaking stories with us. Let me be clear: even with court decisions temporarily standing in the way of hateful policies, this is not the time to rest because Trump will find new ways to target Iranian Americans.
Whether it’s starting a war in Iran, or banning our families from the United States, we must be prepared to defend ourselves against these steady attacks on our community!
We’re working overtime to beat back Muslim Ban 3.0 and apply pressure on Trump to shed light on his clandestine ‘extreme vetting policy.’ We’re holding politicians accountable to us and we’re shouting reason over the drumbeat of war with Iran. Imagine how much more we can accomplish with more resources.
Donate right now — We can’t take on Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, Stephen Miller, and wealthy lobbyists and donors all on our own.
Legal Counsel, NIAC
We just blocked Muslim Ban 3.0! Overnight, Judge Theodore D. Chuang, the federal judge who issued one of two nationwide injunctions against Muslim Ban 2.0, issued another nationwide preliminary injunction against Muslim Ban 3.0, going beyond the Temporary Restraining Order issued by Judge Watson in Hawaii. The implementation and enforcement of Muslim Ban 3.0 will remain blocked for the duration of the lawsuit filed by the National Iranian American Council, Muslim Advocates, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Covington Burling LLP, on behalf of Iranian Alliances Across Borders and individual plaintiffs challenging the president’s September 24 Proclamation.
One thing remains clear through the disorienting cloud of litigation surrounding the president’s embattled attempts to fulfill a campaign promise of banning Muslims: nothing is preventing President Trump from trying new versions of his Muslim ban over and over again until he achieves a paradoxically constitutional Muslim ban.
In this likely never-ending cycle of unconstitutionality, the president will issue a remixed Muslim ban with subtle cosmetic changes, litigation will follow, and a new, rewritten Muslim ban will be promptly introduced before a binding Supreme Court decision, restarting the entire cycle again.
In this political era of villainizing refugees and throwing paper towels to suffering and starving U.S. citizens, perhaps the Congressional inaction is unsurprising. Congress has enabled the president by repeatedly failing to intervene and take up legislation like the Statue of Liberty Values Act 2.0 (or SOLVE Act 2.0) which would have rescinded Muslim Ban 2.0. In many cases, Congressional members have not even issued a single public statement about the Muslim bans in the past ten months. Silence is acquiescence.
Two challenges to the second version of the Muslim Ban came before the Supreme Court in June, both resulting in District Court judges issuing nationwide halts on the ban – International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) v. Trump, and Trump v. Hawaii.
In the first opportunity for the Supreme Court to weigh in on the constitutionality of the Muslim ban, the nine Justices allowed the travel ban to go into effect for travelers who lacked a credible claim of a “bona fide relationship to a person or entity in the United States,” and lifting the stay on the refugee ban entirely. This was a telling indication that the first part of the Muslim ban is being viewed by the Supreme Court Justices with considerably greater constitutional skepticism than the second part.
Last Monday, a brief one page order handed down by the Supreme Court directed the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss the IRAP v. Trump as moot without expressing any view on the merits of the case. Trump v. Hawaii will likely face the same fate once the 120-day suspension of refugees entering the United States also expires next month.
By dismissing the writ of certiorari as “improvidently granted” in IRAP v. Trump, the Supreme Court could have removed the case from their docket while leaving lower court decisions undisturbed. Instead, the Supreme Court – with the exception of Justice Sotomayor dissenting – granted the president a blank slate on a Muslim ban.
The president has turned his campaign promise into a video game, like Muslim Ban 3 for Nintendo, hitting the reset button every time he fails to reach a desired outcome. But this is not a video game. Real people, real families, real lives are hurt with every version of the same hateful, bigoted Muslim ban. Muslim Ban 3.0 may be halted for now, but Congress must pull the plug on Trump’s unconstitutional Muslim ban for good before he issues Muslim Ban 4.0.
Like a blooper reel from a racist reality television show starring Donald Trump, we are now on Muslim ban, take three. The Sept. 24, 2017 presidential proclamation marks the third attempt at fulfilling a flawed campaign promise of a “total and complete shutdown of Muslim from entering the United States.”
But like his previous attempts, this one just got challenged in court as well.
Just hours ago, the National Iranian American Council and our partners (Muslim Advocates, IAAB and Americans United for Separation of Church and State) filed the first lawsuit in the country challenging the Sept. 24 proclamation. The complaint filed in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Greenbelt Division ― titled Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB) v. Trump ― seeks to challenge the constitutionality of the Sept. 24 proclamation.
It’s Still A Muslim Ban
Sure, not every Muslim-majority country is included in this ban. But Muslim-majority countries remain the only ones impacted in any meaningful way, and the intent of fulfilling a campaign promise to ban Muslims has not changed.
Three countries were added to the newest iteration of the Muslim ban: North Korea, Venezuela and Chad. In 2016, only 1,355 nonimmigrant visas were issued to nationals of Chad, a Muslim-majority country, and a grand total of 100 nonimmigrant visas were issued to North Korea. A majority of the 156,361 visas issued to Venezuelans in 2016 will continue to be permitted into the United States, because only Venezuelan government officials and their families are barred from visas.
Syria accounted for 9,096 nonimmigrant visas issued in 2016, Yemen 5,203, Libya 2,307 and Somalia 451.
If 2016 visa statistics are any indicator, Iran accounted for 29,404 ― the lion’s share of nonimmigrant visas ― and is among the broadest categorically banned countries under the third Muslim ban.
So although North Korea and Venezuela were added, both non-Muslim majority countries, their inclusion is insignificant, because the newest Muslim ban would only affect about 100 North Koreans and a handful of Venezuelan government officials. The rest of the families affected will likely be Muslim and will likely be Iranian.
So can we still call this proclamation a Muslim ban? Absolutely, because it very much is.
The Multiple Muslim Bans Do Nothing To Keep America Safe
The Trump administration had more than 90 days to conduct a review of threats to our national security from abroad. They were not able to produce a shred of evidence that would indicate a credible threat to national security from Iranian nationals, or citizens of the other countries targeted. That is because since as far back as 1975, no one in the United States has been killed in a terrorist attack by someone from the seven countries targeted by Trump’s original Muslim ban: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The multiple Muslim bans, and Donald Trump’s racially charged rhetoric, has actually contributed to making America less safe ― 2017 has marked a dramatic rise in hate crimes.
Sudan Was Able To Buy Its Way Out Of Muslim Ban #3
Case in point, consider the case of Sudan. The African country is wrestling with a significant Al-Qaeda presence, yet it was able to avoid being included in the third Muslim ban despite being targeted by executive order #1 and #2. Why?
According to investigative journalist Ryan Grim, the explanation lies in aggressive lobbying by the United Arab Emirates in return for Sudan sending thousands of mercenaries to help the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s war efforts in Yemen. By providing mercenary support, Sudan effectively purchased their way out of inclusion in Muslim ban #3 – and just like that, the national security threat that Trump claimed Sudan presented in executive order #1 and #2 disappeared.
This clearly isn’t about America’s safety. It’s about Trump’s ego and his promise to his base to ban Muslims. If President Trump was serious about addressing terror threats and threats to national security, he would take seriously the bipartisan Committee on Combating Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel’s findings from 2015, which did not list Trump-targeted countries like Iran in the top five countries from which foreign fighters originate. He would take seriously foreign intervention in our elections or threats from global warming and climate change.
But he has not taken any of these threats to American safety seriously, yet, because he is obsessed and consumed with fulfilling his promise to ban Muslims without regard for how it will tear apart American families.
Why We Are Suing… Again
Over the last nine months, Iranian-Americans and other targeted communities have been forced to become experts in immigration law and familiarize themselves with new immigration laws and policies that seem to change every few months. They don’t do it because they love studying the law in their spare time – they do it because they have to and because being reunited with their families depends on their knowledge of how to navigate the new laws.
The Sept. 24 proclamation, in many respects, is the most cruel and absurd of the three Muslim bans and is most detrimental to the Iranian community in particular. An estimated 62 percent of individuals affected by the third Muslim ban will be Iranian.
The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and our partners filed this lawsuit challenging Muslim ban #3, because what has remained constant throughout the last eight months – aside from the glaring congressional inaction and passivity in the face of an assault on bedrock American values and principles – is the racial and religious animus that motivates President Trump to persist with new attempts at banning Muslims.
It has taken the Trump administration three takes to figure out how to legally implement a Muslim ban – because they still have not figured out it is unconstitutional to implement a Muslim ban. NIAC and our partners will be there to serve as a periodic reminder that a Muslim ban is un-American and unconstitutional.
Press Call Tomorrow on Two Lawsuits Filed on the Muslim Ban Expansion
Washington, DC – Today, Muslim Advocates, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Covington & Burling LLP, in collaboration with the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC) and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, announced two lawsuits against the Trump administration’s latest efforts to unlawfully block the entry of Muslims into the United States and carry out President Trump’s long-promised Muslim ban.
For more information, please join a press call tomorrow, October 3 at 11am EST. Dial in 866-342-8591; Passcode “Muslim Ban 3”
About the Suits:
Iranian Alliances Across Borders v. Trump
Iranian Alliances Across Borders v. Trump is the first major lawsuit to be filed against the latest iteration of the Muslim ban. It was filed in the U.S. District Court of the District of Maryland, Southern Division, on behalf of the Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB) and six individual plaintiffs, all of whom are United States citizens or lawful permanent residents with Iranian relatives who will be blocked from coming to the United States when the latest Muslim ban goes fully into effect on October 18.
This legal action challenges President Trump’s September 24, 2017, Presidential Proclamation—which imposes broad restrictions on entry into the United States for nationals of several predominantly Muslim countries—as a violation of the United States Constitution and other federal laws.
Brennan Center for Justice v. U.S. Department of State
Brennan Center for Justice v. U.S. Department of State was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to compel the Trump Administration to release critically important details on how it came to choose which countries would be covered by Muslim Ban 3.0.
Over the summer, federal agencies purportedly conducted a worldwide review of visa issuance and data collection processes, the results of which determined which countries were included on the final list of banned countries in President Trump’s September 24 Proclamation. The process and results of that review have been completely hidden from public view, yet they are being used to determine the fate of millions of individuals across the world.
In July, a number of civil rights organizations, including the Brennan Center for Justice, Muslim Advocates, and Americans United, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on various “extreme vetting” measures enacted by the administration, including information regarding the worldwide review process. The administration has yet to comply with any part of that request, even though the statutory deadline for a response has long since passed. This litigation seeks immediate disclosure of just one element of this multi-part request: the report on the basis of which the Muslim Ban 3.0 countries were selected.
Click here to read the original FOIA.
Click here to read the Brennan Center’s report on Extreme Vetting and the Muslim Ban
According to Johnathan Smith, legal director of Muslim Advocates, “President Trump’s latest Muslim ban remains as unjust and unlawful as the prior versions. Banning people because of their religion or national origin doesn’t make our country safer; all it does is tear apart families and propagate bigotry and discrimination. Through these two legal filings today, we seek to hold this administration accountable and make clear that no one – including the President – is above the law. You shouldn’t have to file a lawsuit to see your fiancé or grandmother, but that’s what we have to do so our plaintiffs can be reunited with their loved ones.”
According to Shayan Modarres, legal counsel for the National Iranian American Council: “Iranian Americans, and other affected communities, have had to familiarize themselves with ambiguous new laws and policies every few months because of this president’s obsession with fulfilling a flawed campaign promise to ban Muslims from the United States. This erosion of fundamental American values must stop. We are using every tool and legal remedy available to us to stop xenophobia and bigotry from becoming the official immigration policy of the United States.”
According to Mana Kharraz, Executive Director of Iranian Alliances Across Borders: “Over the past year, our members have been subject to discrimination in their schools and subways. We have been separated from our loved ones and had to endure this administration’s continued campaign to divide our families. Our youth are witness to a rise in hatred that puts our country in jeopardy of ushering in a dark chapter of bigotry becoming US policy. We have a right to exist and be protected in the US without becoming pawns in an agenda that has little to do with safety and security.”
According to Richard B. Katskee, legal director of Americans United: “This is the third time that President Trump has tried to implement the Muslim ban, and it’s still designed to exclude people because of their religious beliefs. The only thing that’s really different here is that the Trump administration is now trying to make this appalling ban permanent. Religious freedom is about fairness. When we treat one group of people unfairly because of their religious beliefs, that’s a threat to the religious freedom of all Americans.”
According to Faiza Patel of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University:“We need more information on the president’s decision to blacklist certain countries. Given his repeated insistence that he wants to ban Muslims from the United States, we cannot take his word that the most recent version of the ban is motivated by national security considerations rather than prejudice.”
Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.
The National Iranian American Council is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the voice of Iranian Americans and promoting greater understanding between the American and Iranian people.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is a nonpartisan law and policy institute that seeks to improve our systems of democracy and justice.