The vote, which further restricts the president’s powers to limit entry into the United States, is a victory for Muslim Americans and civil rights groups.
In a vote largely along party lines, the Democratic-majority House passed the No Ban Act in a 233-183 vote. In addition to limiting the president’s authority to suspend or restrict foreign nationals from entering the country, the bill prohibits religious discrimination in immigration related decisions. Furthermore, it ensures that the State Department and Department of Homeland Security consult Congress before imposing restrictions on any group of foreigners.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) first proposed the bill in April 2019. “House passage of the No Ban Act brings us one step closer to reuniting thousands of families, ending this policy that has damaged our national security and reputation around the world, and making clear that the United States will not discriminate based on religion or nationality,” Coons said after the vote.
Earlier this year, when the vote was initially set to take place before COVID-19 hit, the White House threatened to veto the bill. “The President’s authority to restrict travel into the United States has been central to the Administration’s ongoing efforts to safeguard the American people against COVID-19,” the White House said in the statement. “At a minimum, the bill would cause dangerous delays that threaten the safety, security, and health of the American people.”
However, the President vetoing the bill is improbable as the bill is highly unlikely to survive the Senate. During floor debate, Sen. Susan Collins (R – ME) accused Democrats of another “knee-jerk response” because “they don’t like the president.” Moreover, Rep. Andy Briggs (R-AZ) argued that Trump’s travel ban was “not a Muslim ban,” but instead a “legitimate travel restriction implemented for the safety of this nation.”
As a result, the reversal of the ban and implementation of restrictions on presidential authority will likely come down to the results of the November 3 elections. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden already made it clear that he plans to roll back the travel ban on day one of his presidency. “Muslim communities are the first to feel Donald Trump’s assault on Black and Brown communities in this country, with his vile Muslim ban,” Biden told listeners.
Impact of the Muslim-centered ban
Acting on a campaign promise to implement a “complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” Trump’s 2017 executive order initially prohibited immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries for at least 90 days. As a result, many people who held US green cards and had dual citizenship were stopped at airports and held for questioning. Some were denied entry altogether.
The ban was then challenged in court and underwent several changes. The latest version of the ban known as the Muslim Ban 3.0 bars foreign nationals from five Muslim majority countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen – and Venezuela and North Korea. This current version of the ban has been upheld by the Supreme Court since June 2018. The Trump administration expanded it in February this year to include Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania. The No Ban Act would vacate any and all existing travel bans imposed by the Trump administration.
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The bill’s passing is a welcome rebuke amongst the Muslim community. Following the vote, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a statement applauding the House’s decision. “By voting to overturn the Muslim ban, the House has hopefully brought us closer to the day when our nation throws President Trump’s illegal and immoral policy into the dustbin of history,” said CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell.
During floor debate, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), one of two of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, called the ban “hateful policy.” “I have spoken countless times before and since I entered office about the hateful and brutality of the Muslim ban,” she said.
Last month, several Muslims affected by the travel ban shared their stories with the American Civil Liberties Union. Haya Bitar, who was born Syrian parents in the United States, said that her parents and younger sister have been banned from entering the country because of their nationality and religion.
“They are constantly discriminated against at airports, and are subjected to extremely unnecessary interrogational procedures when they apply for visas and other similar travel documents,” Bitar said. “It’s absolutely insane that a country that prides itself on its commitment to freedom and justice, can close its doors on refugees and immigrants seeking help.”
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