by Asees Bhasin
Today, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, marks the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Trump v. Hawaii, which allowed the Muslim Ban to remain permanently in effect. As we fight other Trump-manufactured crises such as the separation of families and mass incarcerations of families fleeing violence, persecution and poverty at our Southern border, we must not forget the ongoing impact and family separations caused by the Ban. Advocates with the No Muslim Ban Ever Campaign, which includes Asian Americans Advancing Justice, held a press conference on the Capitol Grounds to highlight the continued impact that the Ban has on families and the resilience with which they have dealt with it.
Congressional representatives including Representative Ilhan Omar, Ami Bera and Judy Chu and Senator Chris Van Hollen delivered heartfelt remarks in protest of the Ban.
“Let’s put a human face on it… [I]s a two-year-old a security risk? Does that two-year-old have a compelling reason to be with her mother and father? Absolutely. What was the process? As far as we can tell, there was no process…[Y]ou’re talking about mothers and daughters wanting to see their children, their grandchildren. This is not who we are.”
- Congressman Ami Bera
Advocates uplifted stories of impacted community members and the need to repeal the Ban. An art display on the Capitol Grounds highlighted artwork, photos, and stories showing the resilience of impacted community members affected by the Muslim Ban and Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.
The Trump v. Hawaii Judgment
On September 24, 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order 9645 which was the third iteration of the Ban. This proclamation placed country-by-country travel restrictions on nationals of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Yemen, and on certain diplomatic officials from Venezuela. As per the report “Inside the Numbers: How Immigration Shapes Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities”, the number of people worldwide who fall under the Ban exceeds 170 million. This matter reached the Supreme Court and in a 5–4 decision authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court upheld the Muslim Ban in its final form. In doing so, the Court deferred to the executive and found that its national security concerns were a facially neutral justification for the Ban despite numerous statements by the President and his proxies stating that the goal of the Ban was to prevent Muslims from coming to the U.S. These justifications were also only added later in the third version of the Ban. Justice Sotomayor’s dissent countered the holding of the majority: “a reasonable observer would conclude that the Proclamation was driven primarily by anti-Muslim animus, rather than by the Government’s asserted national-security justifications.” A year later, the effects of this decision are being felt as strongly as ever.
One Year Later: Impact of the Decision
There has been a dramatic decrease in the number of visas granted to nationals of the countries impacted by the Ban after the issuance of the executive order. This not only impacts the nationals from these countries but also their family members who continue to reside in the United States. In addition to this, there has also been an impact on businesses, educational institutions and healthcare agencies who relied on nationals from these countries for work or study.
Another problem is the scrutiny applied when screening visa applications. While the government has exempted Iranian nationals applying for F and M (student) and J (exchange visitor) visas, these travelers are subject to enhanced screening and vetting requirements. Similarly, Somali nationals entering on nonimmigrant visas are also subject to additional scrutiny.
“The administration has initiated several enhanced vetting programs, such as the form DS-5535 which is used to target Muslim visa applicants around the world, resulting in long delays and increased visa denials for Muslims. These policies combined with other efforts to lower immigration administratively are resulting in lowering the number of Muslims coming into the U.S. and separating families from their loved ones”.
- Bessie Chan-Smitham, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC
In keeping with our American values, we must ensure that the immigration system is free from discrimination based on religious animus. We must also prevent the abuse of executive power to deny entry to classes of people based on illegitimate reasons. Congress must broaden the nondiscrimination provisions in the Immigration and Nationality Act and include religion to the list of protected classes. There are measures already being taken to #RepealTheBan including The NO BAN Act, which was introduced by Senator Chris Coons and Congresswoman Judy Chu on April 10, 2019. This Act would not just repeal Trump’s Muslim, asylum, and refugees bans — it would limit the ability for this administration or any post-Trump administration pass anything similar. To ensure maximum momentum, we must all come together in support of this Act and send a strong message that our communities and allies will stand together united in the face of hate. One way to do this is by signing this petition to ensure that all our elected representatives are on board. The No Muslim Ban Ever Campaign has also released a new report, “Understanding the Muslim Ban and How We’ll Keep Fighting It”, which brings awareness to the #RepealTheBan efforts and the distressing impacts of the Ban. America is the land of opportunity and should remain so for all people regardless of their race, religion, national origin, gender, or educational attainment.
Asees Bhasin is a law clerk with Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC.