‘It Directly Impacted Me and My Community’: Trumans Reflect on the End of the Muslim Ban

President Biden fulfilled a campaign promise to end the Muslim bans from four years prior. (The White House)

On January 20, 2021, President Biden fulfilled a campaign promise to end the Muslim bans from four years prior. On that landmark day, Truman members reflected on the history of the bans, the harm they caused, and how they altered the trajectory of so many people’s lives.

Sadaf Jaffer, Truman Political Partner

As a Muslim American it directly impacted me and my community. At the time I was living in Montgomery Township, New Jersey working as a Postdoctoral Researcher in South Asian Studies at Princeton University. In the wake of the Muslim Bans, I participated and spoke at number of protests and advocated to my elected officials. I ran for office and was elected to the local Township Committee in 2017 and served as mayor of my township for 2019 and 2020. I advocated to speaker Nancy Pelosi about the importance of the No Ban Act as part of a delegation from Muslim Advocates. My entire existence as a Muslim American is impacted by the ban. I have had friends, family, and colleagues who have been unable to come to this country. I have suffered the backlash as a Muslim American elected official due to the environment this ban has created.

Ali Scotten, Truman Security Fellow

I’m an Iranian American whose family has been banned from visiting the U.S. As the Southwest Regional Chair for the National Iranian American Council, I have helped mobilize my community to fight against the ban. When the Muslim ban was announced, I was living in Las Cruces, NM. I was working as an independent Middle East analyst, and volunteering as Southwest Regional Chair for the National Iranian American Council. I organized Iranian Americans in New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado to hold in-district meetings with their Congressional representatives. Because of the ban, I have been separated from my Iranian family for four years. My aunt could not attend my father’s funeral.

Amy Spitalnick, Truman Political Partner

At the time of the ban, I was Communications Director and Senior Policy Advisor in the NY Attorney General’s office, where we led a coalition of states in taking legal action against the ban. I was living in New York City and attended the rally in Cadman Plaza on 1/28/2017. The Muslim Ban litigation was the first major lawsuit we undertook against the Trump administration — the first of what became hundreds of legal actions against Trump’s policies and corruption. It illustrated the power of state AGs and the broader legal community to take on Trump’s unconstitutional, horrific policies.

Camille Mackler, Truman Visiting Senior Fellow, Immigration

I was one of the group that sparked the protest at JFK airport on the first day of the ban, and I stayed for nine days to coordinate the legal effort at the airport afterwards. I was working for the New York Immigration Coalition and rushed out to JFK airport the morning of the ban. With a few friends we called everyone we knew, including elected officials, media, other advocacy groups, and before we knew it 5,000 people were on the parking lot protesting, and hundreds of lawyers were inside working to get people into the United States safely. After the first day of protests I had to go home at about 8PM. I connected with a couple of lawyers who were prepared to stay the night and sent out messages on our listservs that anyone looking to volunteer legal help should connect with them. I woke up the next morning, ready to go to Battery Park for the protest. But something told me to return to JFK Airport. When I got there, hundreds of lawyers were grouped in a diner cranking out legal briefs. By that night I had somehow been put in charge. That day changed the whole trajectory of my life. We didn’t know it but we were starting to build a lawyer army that continued to work together long after the injunctions stopped those initial bans. Eventually, those efforts coalesced into a formal collaborative and, last year, I turned that collaborative into a non-profit organization that I now lead. We are still showing up every day to make sure that immigrants in New York and beyond have access to justice no matter what.

Caitlin Tulloch, Truman Security Fellow

I work at the International Rescue Committee, one of the VOLAGs (voluntary organizations) which does refugee resettlement on behalf of the US government. Specifically, I sat in our Oakland office which used to resettle many Iraqi and Syrian families, and watched my organization’s response to the sudden uncertainty introduced both for future clients stuck overseas and for current clients with questions about their future in America. While the resettlement program is not the area of focus for my work. On the day of the ban, I reached out to show support and love to Muslim and recent refugee colleagues, inviting them to join my family for 4th of July and Thanksgiving. Since then I’ve done everything possible to get Donald Trump thrown out of office in 2020. As an American I am conscious of the pain and harm that our government caused to some of the most vulnerable people in the world — both those directly impacted by the travel ban, and the many Muslim Americans and recent immigrants who make America great.

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We unite veteran, frontline civilian, political, & policy leaders to develop & advance strong, smart & principled solutions to global challenges Americans face.

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