NIAC Action Applauds House Judiciary Passage of Muslim Ban Repeal

Ryan Costello, Policy Director of NIAC Action, issued the following statement after the passage of legislation to repeal the Muslim ban through the House Judiciary Committee:

“After more than three years of the Muslim ban, and more than 30,000 Iranians barred from securing a visa, Congress has now taken a firm step toward unraveling an outrageous order that is based solely on bigotry. 

“The House Judiciary Committee, Chairman Nadler, Rep. Lofgren, and Rep. Judy Chu deserve tremendous credit for moving this vital bill that would end the ban and block future discriminatory orders. So too do the many Iranian Americans and other allied groups in the No Muslim Ban Ever campaign who worked so hard to make the bill’s passage possible. The Iranian-American community looks forward to the House passing the NO BAN Act and sending it on to the Senate, where we hope the majority will bring it up for a vote. 

“Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress have gone from shock and dismissiveness at then candidate-Trump’s Muslim ban proposal, to concern regarding the ban’s chaotic implementation under President Trump, to support and defense of the discriminatory order in the halls of Congress. Republicans on the Judiciary Committee should be ashamed of their gaslighting in the committee today in defense of the Muslim ban. Their efforts to undermine our democratic values and defend discrimination will not be forgotten by the Iranian-American community or the American people.”

NIAC Action’s Recommendations for Judiciary Markup on NO BAN Act and Access to Counsel Act

National Iranian American Council (NIAC) Action is pleased that two bills of importance to the Iranian-American community – the NO BAN Act (H.R. 2214) and the Access to Counsel Act (H.R. 5581) – will be marked up by the Judiciary Committee tomorrow. NIAC Action strongly supports each bill as key steps to guard against discriminatory immigration orders, and urges the committee to pass them while rejecting any efforts to water the bills down. 

NO BAN Act

Since January 27, 2017, when President Trump made good on his campaign promise to impose a Muslim ban, tens of thousands of lives have been 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 has targeted Iranian nationals and deeply impacted countless Iranian Americans:

  • Iranian nationals and Iranian Americans continue to be this policy’s largest target. According to data on the ban’s implementation through September 2019, Iranians account for 68% percent of visas rejected under the ban. 31,077 Iranians have had their nonimmigrant and immigrant visas rejected under the ban, out of a cumulative refusal total of 45,662. 
  • The waiver approval rate for Iranians has only increased marginally to 6% despite efforts to speed up the processing of visas to produce more favorable numbers in advance of a Congressional hearing on the topic in September 2019. 

  • All of these numbers represent the human stories of families and friends separated from one another, all due to an order that is rooted in a discriminatory campaign promise. 

The administration’s track record of discrimination and bigotry began with the implementation of the Muslim Ban. The legislation being marked up tomorrow goes a long way toward reining in the administration’s discriminatory policies while preventing any future president from abusing their powers. It represents a clear step toward justice and the culmination of the desires of both the Iranian-American community and the vast majority of Americans. 

Not only would the NO BAN Act immediately repeal the administration’s Muslim Ban, but it would prevent President Trump, or any future President, from further abusing the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and imposing blanket, discriminatory bans that only harm people and do not make Americans safer. In the INA’s current form, the 212(f) statute does not codify what factors determine whether an aliens’ entry is “detrimental” to U.S. interests, what restrictions are “appropriate,” and how long those restrictions should last. The NO BAN Act would remedy these gaps by curtailing the broad and unspecific language in the law and mandate the government to meet a more stringent standard in suspending entry based on “credible facts” and connected to “specific acts” that have actually occurred. For more on this, please see our memo: How the Trump Administration has Abused the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to Ban Muslims from the U.S.

The NO BAN Act is a strong bill, and we urge members to avoid substantive changes that might water it down or undermine its intent. We hope this mark-up builds momentum toward passage, helping to end the ban and ensure that it is the last discriminatory ban instituted in the United States.  

Access to Counsel Act

The Access to Counsel Act is a straight-forward 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 over the last several months. Since August 2019, dozens of Iranians students have been 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 early January, 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 concerning threats to civil liberties targeting individuals of Iranian heritage, we urge the committee to pass the bill as written and ensure that access to counsel be made available to both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa holders detained for secondary questioning. 

Below you will find some additional materials on the Ban as well as more information of the recent deportation of Iranian students: 

Recommended Sources

NIAC: Deportations and Detentions of Iranians: What We Know and What Congress Can Do
National Immigration Law Center: Understanding the Muslim Ban and How We’ll Keep Fighting It

Deportations and Detentions of Iranians: What We Know and What Congress Can Do


View as PDF

Key Takeaways:

  • CBP has been discriminating against individuals on the basis of their Iranian and Middle Eastern heritage, resulting in outrageous screening for U.S. citizens and green card holders, as well as deportations of Iranian students with valid visas.
     
  • Reports indicate that hundreds of Iranian Americans and green card holders were held for secondary questioning at ports of entry and airports solely on the basis of their national heritage in January 2020.
     
  • CBP initially lied that it had issued an order mandating screenings of individuals of Iranian heritage. However, the discriminatory order was subsequently leaked. It remains unclear whether any remnants of the order are still in effect.
     
  • The Iranian-American community has been deeply shaken by this discrimination, with some fearing travel outside the country and others inquiring about whether it is possible to expunge their place of birth from their passport.
     
  • Dozens of Iranian students with valid visas have had their visas revoked at ports of departure or been deported upon entry to the United States, dating back to August 2019.
     
  • CBP has not explained why these deportations are happening despite numerous inquiries. In one case, a CBP officer threatened an Iranian student by claiming that they could make him disappear inside the prison system just like the Iranian government.
     
  • Part of the deportation problem appears to be related to aggressive and prejudiced personnel at Logan Airport, where many of the deportations have occurred. However, other deportations have taken place in Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York and Detroit.
     
  • The deportations are tremendously harmful to the prospective students, who have quit jobs, said goodbye to family and spent their life savings in some cases on airfare and housing to study in their dream program. They have little recourse to put their lives back on track.
     
  • Both situations are linked by CBP’s discriminatory behavior against individuals of Iranian heritage, as well as heightened geopolitical tensions with Iran. Given the outrageous lies from CBP as well as its track record under this administration, Congressional intervention is necessary.

Iranian Americans Being Detained at the Border

What We Know

Shortly after the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani on January 2nd, both the National Iranian American Council and Congressional offices began receiving reports of Iranian-American citizens and Iranian green card holders being detained and questioned upon reentry to the United States. This occurred both at airports and at border crossings.

Despite Custom and Border Protection’s (CBP) initial denials, we have since learned that CBP issued a directive entitled “Iranian Supreme Leader Vows Forceful Revenge after US Kills Maj. General Qassim Suleimani in Baghdad – Threat Alert High.” The guidance issues an order to front line officers to conduct vetting on all individuals “born after 1961 and before 2001” who are of Iranian, Palestinian or Lebanese heritage or any other nationality that has traveled to Iran or Lebanon. It goes on to say that greater scrutiny will be given to those with connections to the military of these countries, including compulsory military service, “even if they are not of Shia faith, anyone can state they are Baha’i…anyone can state they are from a different faith to mask their intentions.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) described the directive as “nakedly discriminatory. It wrongly renders whole classes of people inherently suspect simply by virtue of who their parents are, where they were born, or what religion they practice.” 

Even before the publication of this explosive document, it was apparent that CBP was engaging in outrageous and unlawful discriminatory acts targeting individuals on the basis of their national heritage. Congress must act to stop this discrimination.

Blaine Port of Entry

At the Blaine Port of Entry in Washington state, hundreds of individuals–comprised of U.S. citizens, green card holders, and valid visa holders–were taken into secondary screening by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers on January 4th-5th based on their national heritage or place of birth. Some individuals were held along with their families who had never even been to Iran in their entire lifetimes. In secondary screening, the individuals were asked questions about their family members, social media accounts, political opinions, travel to Iran and whether they or family members had been conscripted by the Iranian government.

Wait times for this secondary screening were typically between six and ten hours, which was partially due to the new order to target anyone of Iranian heritage, and others of Middle Eastern heritage, for secondary screenings before clearing the individuals for reentry. As one apologetic CBP officer reportedly said to a detained citizen who asked if individuals of Iranian heritage were being targeted, “It’s just a really bad time for you guys right now.” An additional factor for the long wait times is that a large number of Iranians appear to have crossed at the Blaine Port of Entry at roughly the same time following a Persian pop concert in Vancouver.

Additional Reports of Screenings Based on National Heritage

Such secondary screening was not limited to the Blaine Port of Entry, as individuals of Iranian heritage were also targeted for secondary screening at airports. One individual born in Iran, who has been a U.S. citizen since 1986 and has not been to Iran since 1978, was pulled aside for secondary screening on January 3rd in Calgary Airport. His receipt at check-in was given an X and he was made to wait in a separate line. Upon handing over his passport, which would document his place of birth, the immigration officer exclaimed, “I think I know what has happened.” The officer noted when the individual was last in Iran and when he had become a citizen. The officer then went into a separate room and later returned and asked if the individual had served in the military. At first, the individual thought the officer meant the U.S., but they were asking about Iran. He was not in Iran except under the Shah’s government, and only then as a child, which he told the officer. After that, he was sent on his way along with his family.

Similarly, at JFK airport, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania – John Ghazvinian – was pulled into secondary screening on January 5th and asked several questions on his travel and what he thought of the death of Soleimani. After responding that he did not think the latter question was relevant and that he viewed it as political, he was given his passport back and free to go.

We have heard additional reports of Iranian Americans being targeted at ports of entry for secondary screening, though not all have felt comfortable enough to share their stories publicly.

Impact on the Iranian-American community

The individuals who were held were subjected to humiliating, painful and enraging experiences. Negah Hekmati, who was detained at Blaine, appeared at a press conference with Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and recounted how her family – including two young kids – were held for hours. Her five-year-old would not sleep, worried that her parents would be sent to jail, and urged her mother not to speak Persian for fear that it would subject them to greater scrutiny. “My kids shouldn’t experience such things,” Ms. Hekmati said. “They are U.S. citizens. This is not O.K.” Another U.S. citizen who had never been to Iran missed a flight she was supposed to catch, as she was not allowed to leave a holding area while the CBP subjected her father to secondary screening.

The Iranian-American community has been seriously alarmed by CBP’s discriminatory targeting. At NIAC, we have heard from members who are U.S. citizens who have said that they fear traveling outside of the country for fear that they will be discriminated against and held upon reentry. Others have contacted us seeking to expunge their place of birth from their U.S. passports, which now appears to risk subjecting them to discriminatory treatment at U.S. borders.

CBP Response

CBP initially lied to shield its discriminatory actions and intimated that no such discriminatory action was afoot. “Social media posts that CBP is detaining Iranian-Americans and refusing their entry into the U.S. because of their country of origin are false,” CBP said in a statement on January 5th. “Reports that DHS/CBP has issued a related directive are also false.” In the most generous interpretation, CBP was hiding behind the legal definitions of “detention” and “directive” to make this claim. However, the leaked directive belies this claim and explains why Iranian Americans were detained based on their national heritage and held while they were subjected to secondary screening, including probing and inappropriate political questions. As Washington Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib said even before the directive was published, “To have U.S. Customs and Border Protection deny these claims is like being gaslighted from the federal government.”

In addition to the recent leak of the directive itself, an anonymous CBP officer spoke about its discriminatory nature. According to CBC, an officer indicated “that CBP’s Seattle Field Office — which covers the Canada-U.S. border from Washington State to Minnesota — directed border officers to ask Iranian-born travelers counterterrorism questions. The officer claimed that the sole reason Iranian travelers were detained and questioned that weekend was due to their ethnicity. He alleged that the operation was unethical and possibly unconstitutional.”

Rep. Jayapal also shared details of a meeting she, Rep. Suzan DelBene and other Congressional staffers held with CBP’s Seattle Field Office. According to Rep. Jayapal, CBP admitted to making “enormous mistakes in protocol” and that guidance given “translated into the Blaine CBP holding people for literally being born in a particular country.”

The Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties opened an investigation on January 7th following NIAC’s formal complaint on January 5th. However, we have little clarity on the timeline or scope and whether the investigation will yield any policy change. We believe that future travelers may continue to be targeted without clear action to prohibit such discrimination.

What We Don’t Know

  • Still in effect? — With the directive being leaked and its existence no longer in doubt, the only question that remains is if it or some watered-down version of it remains in effect. We have not heard reports of mass detention like we saw in Blaine, WA, in recent weeks, but that case was also very peculiar given how many Iranian Americans were passing through the border at one time. NIAC and allied organizations have been in contact with American citizens of Iranian heritage who have since been held for secondary questioning and harassed at the border. If the directive is still being implemented, we must know to what extent and how it is being applied to protect our communities from continued harassment and intimidation.
     
  • What has been the scope of the order? We still do not know precisely how many individuals have been subjected to secondary screening based on this discriminatory order. Nor do we clearly know if it was confined to a specific region, such as the reach of the Seattle Field Office.
     
  • Are there other factors in play? While we have only seen the guidance from the Seattle Field Office, it is possible that there was a national order or multiple regional orders that CBP has not acknowledged. Similarly, there may be other factors that result in discriminatory treatment at other ports of entry.
     

Iranian Student Deportations

What We Know

Since August 2019, dozens of Iranian students with valid F-1 student visas either had their visas revoked at their port of departure or have been deported upon arrival in the United States. In the cases of Iranian students who landed in the U.S., many were subjected to intimidation and political lines of questioning. In some cases, CBP officers imprisoned those slated for deportation and justified their own inexcusable treatment by referring to the actions of the authoritarian Iranian government.

Many of these students had to quit their jobs, say goodbye to family and spent much of their life savings on airfare and apartments – only to be cruelly rejected. This outrageous treatment, which undermines the student exemption in the Muslim ban that helped it narrowly survive judicial review, cannot be allowed to stand.

Fall Semester Revocations and Deportations

Between August 26th – 31st, at least 18 Iranian students with valid F-1 student visas were barred from boarding flights to start various graduate programs throughout the country. Days before the new semester was supposed to begin, most of these students arrived at their airports in Iran only to find out their visas were cancelled a few days before and were not allowed to board their flights. However, some were rejected after attempting to board their connecting flight, for example, in Abu Dhabi. Others made it to the United States, only to be subjected to harsh interrogation and deportation, as reported by The New York Times:

  • On Aug. 1, Pegah landed in Boston’s Logan Airport to begin a program at Southern New Hampshire University. There, she was led into secondary screening and had her laptop, hard drive and cell phone taken from her. When she asked for food during her long wait, CBP officers threw candy at her and yelled at her to “Take it!” Later, during interrogation, she was asked questions concerning Iran and its seizure of ships in the Persian Gulf. The officer reportedly said ‘Did you know we can catch you and keep you here in the United States, and no one will understand where you are, the same way Iran does to Americans?’ After this outrageous treatment, she was deported.
     
  • On Aug. 19, Behzad – who planned to study at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts – was led into secondary screening at Logan. There, he was interrogated and admitted to working for a company that designed processing systems for factories, including oil facilities. CBP claimed that working in the oil industry violated sanctions, although Behzad asserted that his company was not sanctioned and that he only worked there amid nuclear deal sanctions relief. Nevertheless, he was deported. “They just wanted to find something,” Behzad said.
     
  • On Sept. 18, prospective Harvard Divinity student Reihana Emami was led into secondary screening at Logan. There, she was interrogated over nine hours after her long flights, and questioned on what people in Iran thought about the then-recent attack on Saudi oil facilities that the U.S. attributed to Iran. In communications with NIAC, Reihana recounted that she requested to make a phone call to the university, only to have the CBP officer ask if she was in Iran, would Iran’s government allow her to contact anyone? She repeatedly refused to sign a document they refused to allow her to read, and after a tiring and long ordeal was deported.

Many of the students noted that a State Department webpage showed their visa cases had been updated around Aug. 30. These visa revocations occurred less than a month after what was, until the Soleimani strike, the highest levels in tensions between Iran and the U.S. in years. In June 2019, Iran had shot down a U.S. drone and claimed that the aircraft had entered Iranian airspace, bringing the U.S. 10 minutes from war. Congressional staff pressed CBP on these cases but received no explanation for why so many students were deported.

Spring Semester – December to Present

Months passed until we and other organizations heard of other cases. That changed following the killing of a U.S. civilian contractor in Iraq on Dec. 27, 2019, and the assassination of Soleimani on Jan. 2, 2020.  This culminated with the Iranian airstrikes on two Iraqi bases that hosted U.S. forces, leaving dozens of U.S. troops with traumatic brain injuries.

Shortly before and following these events, another wave of Iranian students with valid visas were subjected to harsh interrogation and deportation. According to the Guardian, an Iranian student named Mohammad Elmi was detained and deported from LAX on December 13, cruelly separating him from his wife. The same article cites Logan as a site of particular concern, with 7 out of the 10 students they spoke with at the time having “flown into Logan International Airport in Boston, where some of them allege serious infractions by CBP, including multiple complaints about an individual officer.” Multiple organizations and individuals NIAC has spoken with have cited similar concerns with Boston Logan, citing students’ rough treat and the egregious lines of questioning they were subjected to.

On Jan. 1, Amin was on his way to start a Ph.D. program at the University of Florida when he was pulled aside by an officer at the airport in Atlanta. The officer took him to a room for questioning while his suitcase and cellphone were searched by other officers in a separate room. CBP officers took issue with Amin’s apparent failure to note an old school email address and a separate academic paper on his visa application, which they cited as the basis to revoke his visa and deport him. Before he was deported, however, he was sent to a detention facility in Georgia overnight, where he despaired and had to be comforted by his fellow cellmates.

Ten days later, another student entering a joint Masters and Ph.D program in engineering at the University of Notre Dame was deported from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. “After 24 hours, I was transferred to the boarding gate in the company of two armed officers, as if I was some kind of terrorist. It was both humiliating and dehumanizing,” he said.

There were at least 3 other Iranians students deported beyond this date, with this most egregious case occurring on Jan. 21st, when Shahab Dehghani, a student studying economics at Northeastern University, was held overnight for questioning at Boston Logan Airport and then deported the next evening. Before his deportation, Shahab’s team of attorneys was able to procure a court order requiring Shahab to stay in the country to better understand CBP’s reasoning for his deportation order. In a clear violation of the law, CBP deported Shahab despite the court order, highlighting their lack of concern for the rule of law and for the rights of those entering the country.

So far, CBP and the Department of Homeland Security have not provided any justification for these deportations nor the policy guiding CBP officials at airports concerning Iranian students. CBP said in a statement that there are numerous potential grounds for inadmissibility include health issues, criminality and security concerns: “In all cases, the applicant bears the burden of proof of admissibility.” This is a wholly unsatisfactory explanation for why valid State Department visas, which required a lengthy screening process that was extended and expanded under the Trump administration, were rejected under dubious, opaque grounds. In addition, students described their treatment while in CBP custody as humiliating, intimidating, and demeaning, with some officials justifying their behavior by referring to their Iranian heritage. In their efforts to deflect this egregious treatment, CBP officials declined to comment on individual cases.

What We Don’t Know

  • Directives — With revelations that CBP’s Seattle Field Office had issued a directive asking CBP officials to place U.S. citizens of Iranian, Lebanese or Palestinian heritage into secondary questioning, CBP may have issued similar guidance concerning foreign students of Iranian heritage. However, we have not had any official or unofficial explanation as to why these students have been deported or why their visas were revoked. CBP must provide any written or spoken guidance that indicates a change in posture towards students of Iranian heritage as well as their justification for enacting such a policy.
     
  • Differences between DHS and the State Department — With these visa revocations, it is clear that the State Department and DHS are operating on two different definitions of admissibility. The State Department conducts a review process that typically lasts over 9 months and covers the individual’s background, contacts, and social media presence, along with a host of other factors prior to issuing visas. To have that process routinely reversed in an arbitrary manner amid credible concerns of discriminatory treatment is deeply concerning. At a minimum, Congress should work to ensure that there is not such a fundamental disconnect in order to limit the damage caused by these reversals.
     

What Congress Should Do

The treatment of Iranian Americans and Iranian students at ports of entry cannot be seen separately. It is clear that CBP has adopted discriminatory and, in some cases, likely illegal approaches to individuals of Iranian heritage and others of Middle Eastern heritage. With geopolitical tensions unlikely to lessen, and as students continue to be deported, Congress must take decisive actions:

  1. Conduct an investigation on the detention of Iranian Americans at the border and the deportation of Iranians students, including but not limited to a hearing with witnesses from DHS, CBP and the State Department, as well as affected individuals and civil rights experts. Congress should also make certain that letters of inquiry are adequately responded to by the respective agencies in a timely manner. 
     
  2. Pass legislation as part of this year’s DHS Appropriations funding measure to prohibit funds used for any discriminatory practices against Iranian students, Iranian Americans, individuals of Iranian heritage or others of Middle Eastern descent.
     
  3. Ensure measures are in place to quickly assist impacted individuals, including reaching out directly to affected communities and ensuring organizations and leaders are in touch with appropriate staff to better halt abuses. We have seen in some cases that the quicker congressional offices get involved, and help mobilize the local universities and attorneys, the better the chance to halt the deportation or stop discriminatory behavior.
     
  4. Pass the three bills below in order to help protect visa applicants, green card holders, and U.S. citizens of Iranian heritage and all other communities that have been stigmatized by this administration:
     

    1. Access to Counsel Act of 2020 (H.R. 5581): ensures that those in deportation proceedings or who have been held in secondary questioning for more than one hour are given access to legal counsel.
       
    2. End Racial and Religious Profiling Act of 2019 (S. 2355): eliminates racial, religious, and other discriminatory profiling by law enforcement and federal agencies.
       
    3. Neighbors Not Enemies Act (H.R. 5734): repeals the 1798 Alien Enemies Act, which allows the President to determine if all foreign nationals from a specific country should be “apprehended, restrained, secured and removed” during war time. The Act was employed during World War II to detain and subsequently deport German, Japanese, and Italian immigrants.

NIAC Action Statement on Passage of Legislation Prohibiting Unauthorized War with Iran 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, January 30, 2020
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mana@niacaction.org

NIAC Action Policy Director Ryan Costello issued the following statement on the House of Representatives passing legislation to clarify that no authorization for an Iran war exists, prohibit funds for an unauthorized Iran war, and repeal the 2002 authorization to use military force against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Rep. Khanna’s amendment passed in a 228-175 vote, while Rep. Lee’s amendment passed 236-166: 

“Today, the House of Representatives took decisive action to clarify that President Trump does not have authorization for an Iran war and to rescind the 2002 authorization for war against Iraq which has been abused by the administration. The American people do not want a new disastrous and endless war with Iran. Given that President Trump’s disastrous Iran strategy brought us to the brink of full-blown war with Iran in both June 2019 and January 2020, Congress must continue to move expeditiously to rein in the administration’s reckless Iran approach.

“Such action would not be necessary if the President had stuck with the Iran nuclear deal and sought to build on it. Nor would it be necessary if this was an administration that respects the Constitution, sets realistic policy goals with Iran and heeds the wishes of the American people on only using military force as a last resort. Instead, we have a reckless President previewing unauthorized airstrikes at Mar-a-Lago while he keeps Congress in the dark. 

“Reps. Ro Khanna and Barbara Lee deserve tremendous credit for their steadfast leadership in pushing this needed legislation forward once again. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel also deserve credit for moving swiftly following President Trump’s latest escalations. Now the Senate, once it is finished with impeachment proceedings, must take up this legislation and pass it in order to send a clear and united message that the White House does not have authorization for an Iran war.”

Help Protect Green Card Diversity

 

Organizational Letter Supporting Sen. Durbin’s (D-IL) RELIEF Act

October 16, 2019
To: Members of the U.S. Senate

Dear Honorable Senators,

As organizations representing immigrant communities who would be harmed by H.R. 1044/S. 386, the so-called Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act, we write to express our support for the compromise offered by Sen. Dick Durbin in the Resolving Extended Limbo for Immigrant Employees and Families (RELIEF) Act.

Many of our groups warned in September that H.R. 1044/S. 386 would not actually fix the green card backlog, and instead would reduce the diversity of the green card process and pit one group of immigrants against others to fight over a broken and inherently unequal system. 

Today, we encourage the Senate to instead support and pass the RELIEF Act to address the green card backlog. The bill recognizes that the backlog stems from too few green cards to meet the actual demand, which can only be sufficiently addressed by expanding the overall number of green cards available, which the bill would do. Moreover, it includes key provisions to protect the diversity of the green card process and minimize the negative repercussions of only removing the country caps. The RELIEF Act does not offer a zero-sum approach that prioritizes one group of immigrants to the exclusion of all others. Moreover, we know that such a formulation can pass, as it is based on the bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate in 2013.

The green card backlog is a long-standing, complex problem. The RELIEF Act offers a balanced approach that can fix it faster for everyone in the backlog, unlike H.R. 1044/S. 386. We encourage you to cosponsor the RELIEF Act today and oppose H.R. 1044/S. 386 moving forward.

Sincerely,

18 Million Rising
All of Us
Council on American-Islamic Relations
Justice for Muslims Collective
MPower Change Action Fund
National Iranian American Council Action
Project South
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
United Chinese Americans
United Macedonian Diaspora
United We Dream

A major victory on our work to protect green card diversity

Last week, we scored a major victory on our work to protect the green card process for Iranians and other communities. Recently NIAC Action assembled a coalition of immigrant-advocacy organizations to send a letter to the Senate urging them to oppose H.R.1044/S.386, the so-called “Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act.” This bill, if passed, would effectively block many immigrant communities’ paths to a green card⁠—and Iranians would be particularly impacted. 

This bill was on a path to sail through Congress under the radar until NIAC Action and our allies stepped up to stop it.

Last week, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) drew a firm red line against passing this bill in a private letter to the bill’s lead, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). In the letter, Sen. Durbin cited the coalition’s concerns that this bill exasperates the green card backlog and pits one group of immigrants against others to fight over a broken immigration system. Durbin’s letter could prove decisive in winning the battle against this unfair bill.

Now Durbin plans on introducing his own bill that would clear the current backlog by increasing the number of green cards authorized each year; the solution we proposed in our coalition letter.

Unfortunately, proponents of this bill have attacked Sen. Durbin and employed tactics to intimidate Iranians from voicing their concerns—one group has even encouraged their members to report Iranians who publicly oppose the bill to ICE. We will not allow anyone to silence our voices and we will not allow special interests to turn immigrant groups against one another. And now, we are winning.

However, the fight to protect green card diversity is just revving up. We need everyone to support  Durbin’s efforts by make it abundantly clear  that we will not yield, so please call your Senator today and support our campaign to protect green card diversity.
 

📞 Call your Senator

➡️ Donate directly in support of our campaign to protect fair immigration
 

Sen. Durbin cannot be the only senator stepping up and fighting back. Take action today and help us secure the additional Senate allies we need to ensure the immigration system is fair for all.

نامه ائتلاف به مجلس سنای ایالات متحده در مخالفت با لایحه کارت سبز که بر مشکلات می‌افزاید

در هفته جاری، کمیته اقدام نایاک نامه ای را در مخالفت با لایحه H.R. 1044/S.386 برای سناتورهای ایالات متحده هماهنگ و ارسال کرد. امضا کنندگان این نامه بنیاد آمریکائیان عرب‌تبار، شورای روابط آمریکایی/اسلامی، سازمان غیردولتی آمریکائی‌های جنوب آسیائی‌تبار و ۱۱ سازمان دیگر که نمایندگی جوامع مهاجر را بر عهده دارند را شامل می شود. این جوامع در صورت تصویب این لایحه تحت تاثیر آن قرار خواهند گرفت.

چرا ما با لایحه کارت سبز H.R. 1044 مخالفیم؟

این لایحه که به غلط لایحه “انصاف برای مهاجران با مهارت بالا” نام گرفته، در عمل مسیر دستیابی شهروندان ایران و تقریبا ً همه ملل دیگر را به کارت سبز مسدود خواهد کرد. ایرانیان هم اکنون نیز مشمول (دستور) منع سفر هستند و تنها برای یک بار ورود برایشان ویزای آمریکا صادر می شود. بواسطه تصویب این لایحه، مدت انتظار آنها برای دریافت کارت سبز سالها افزوده خواهد شد. در زمانی که دولت کنونی، مهاجران از دیگر کشورها را موجوداتی اهریمنی جلوه می دهد، ما اعتقاد داریم هیج یک از این سیاستهای غیر موثر و مضر، از جمله لایحه H.R.1044 از خلاء ظهور نمی کنند. بهترین راه حل برای کاستن از لیست انتظار طولانی متقاضیان کارت سبز، افزایش عرضه کارت سبز است، نه ایجاد تقابل بین گروه‌های مختلف مهاجر و وادار کردن آنها به رقابت بر سر تعداد محدود کارت سبزهای موجود.

ما چه کاری برای مقابله با این لایحه می‌توانیم انجام دهیم

شهروندان ایرانی و آمریکایی‌های ایرانی‌تبار در حال حاضر از همه جوانب مورد هجوم قرار گرفته‌اند. همراه با سیاست شکست خورده فشار حداکثری به ایران، ایرانی‌ها و آمریکایی‌های ایرانی‌تبار هم به واسطه بررسی شدید تقاضاهای ویزایشان و ممنوعیت ورود مسلمانان در معرض شدیدترین محدودیتها قرار گرفته اند.

کمیته اقدام نایاک توانسته با کسب حمایت شماری از سناتورهای ایالات متحده، از تصویب این لایحه به اتفاق آرا جلوگیری کند. علاوه بر هماهنگ کردن این نامه ائتلاف، ما با همکاری متحدانمان در مجلس نمایندگان و مجلس سنای آمریکا ادامه می دهیم تا از تبدیل شدن این لایحه به قانون جلوگیری کنیم و با بررسی همه راهکارهای ممکن، تضمین کنیم که تنها راه حلی برگزیده شود که به معنای واقعی برای همه متقاضیان مهاجرت به آمریکا منصفانه باشد.

اقدام کنید!

این تلاش به منابع (مالی) نیاز دارد و ما برای پیروز شدن به چالشهای سیاسی که جامعه ما با آن روبه رو است به حمایت شما نیاز داریم. کمک کنید تا راه دستیابی ایرانیان به کارت سبز باز بماند. برای کمک به این تلاش‌ها، شما می توانید با نماینده خود در کنگره تماس بگیرید و با کمک های مالی (به ما) تضمین کنید که منابع لازم را برای متوقف کردن این لایحه در اختیار داشته باشیم.


۲۵ سپتامبر ۲۰۱۹

به: اعضای مجلس سنای ایالات متحده

سناتورهای محترم گرامی،

به عنوان سازمانهای نماینده جوامع مهاجری که بواسطه (تصویب لایحه) H.R. 1044/S 386، موسوم به ” قانون انصاف برای مهاجران با مهارت بالا”، آسیب می بینند ما بدیوسیله مخالفتمان را نسبت به این لایحه اعلام می کنیم. نظر به اینکه این قانون پیشنهادی یکی از ستونهای نظام مهاجرتی ما را حذف خواهد کرد و تبعات جدی در پی خواهد داشت، ما از سناتورها می خواهیم که نگذارند این لایحه به اتفاق آراء در دستور کار مجلس قرار بگیرد.

ما برای درخواستمان دلایل ذیل را داریم:

  •  (1) این لایحه مشکل لیست انتظار متقاضیان را حل نمی کند بلکه صرفا ً مدت انتظار برخی را افزایش خواهد داد و تنوع نژادی را در نظام کارت سبز محدود خواهد کرد.
  •  
  •  (2) این لایحه رویکرد «صفر و یک» دارد که یک گروه از متقاضیان مهاجرت را در مقابل گروه‌های دیگر قرار می‌دهد تا بر سر یک نظام مهاجرت شکست خورده با هم رقابت کنند.
  •  
  •  (3) یک راه حل واقعی با افزایش تعداد کارت سبزهای عطا شده، تنوع نژادی را تضمین می کرد.

ما می پذیریم که حجم قابل توجه تقاضاهای ویزا در نوبت بررسی مایه تاسف است و باید حل شود. اما (لایحه) H.R. 1044/S 386 یک راه حل منصفانه نیست و می تواند مشکلات جدیدی را ایجاد کند، مشکلاتی از قبیل ایجاد انحصار برای یک گروه از متقاضیان و حذف هر نوع تنوع نژادی از این فرایند، آنگونه که وزارت خارجه (آمریکا) بدان اشاره کرده است. ما از سناتورها می خواهیم که نگذارند این لایحه به اتفاق آرا در دستور کار مجلس قرار گیرد و این تلاش غیر سازنده برای حل یک مشکل دیرپا و پیچیده را رد کنند.

با صداقت،

بنیاد آمریکائیان عرب تبار

سازمان روابط عمومی آمریکایی های با تبار جزایر اقیانوس آرام

اتحادیه کارگران آمریکایی های با تبار جزایر اقیانوس آرام

شورای روابط اسلامی آمریکا

شورای فدرال آمریکایی های با تبار جزایر اقیانوس آرام

شورای رهبری دموکراتیک آمریکایی های ایتالیایی تبار

کنسرسیوم آمریکایی های کره ای تبار در بخش خدمات و آموزش

کمیته اقدام شورای ملی آمریکایی های ایرانی تبار

کنسرسیوم ملی آمریکایی های کره ای تبار در بخش خدمات و آموزش

وکلای آمریکایی های با تبار جزایر اقیانوس آرام

کمیته اقدام سیاسی آمریکایی های پاکستانی تبار

پروژه جنوب

آمریکایی های جنوب آسیایی تبار

اتحاد آمریکایی های چینی تبار

اتحاد مهاجران مقدونیه

اتحاد رویای ما

NIAC Action Joins 200+ NGOs to Tell Congress: Cut ICE And CBP Funding

NIAC Action joined a group of more than 200 organizations calling on Congress to cut funding for the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) detention, enforcement, and border militarization programs as well as to ensure that appropriated funds are not abused by the administration. The letter comes as Congress prepares to consider and pass legislation funding the government for the upcoming fiscal year.

From the Muslim ban to locking kids in cages, the Trump administration has done profound damage to America’s immigration policies and moral standing. Yet, the President has encountered minimal resistance from Congress as budgets for DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) continue to rise in spite of the horrific abuses they perpetrate. 

In joining more than 200 organizations, NIAC Action is encouraging Congress to use the power of the purse to rein in these abuses. The letter calls for decreased funding for detention and agents, as well as no funding for the border wall. Moreover, it calls for an end to unlawful deportations and guardrails to ensure nobody is detained by CBP for longer than 72 hours.

NIAC Action remains committed to fighting for just and equitable immigration policies.

Read the full text of the letter below.

Defund-Hate_NGO-Sign-on_FY20-DHS-Priorities_Sept-2019

SCOTUS Just Approved Bigotry. Now What?

While we had hoped that justice and equality would triumph over hate and discrimination, we also suspected the Supreme Court, given its current makeup, would side with Trump. So we planned ahead. Our strategy is focused on terminating the ban through political organizing and legislative action.

Our Strategy Moving Forward

  1. Expose the lawmakers supporting Trump’s ban. The current Republican-led Congress has blocked a vote to repeal the Muslim Ban.
  2. Uncover the information that Trump is hiding. That is why we worked with Senator Chris Van Hollen to require Trump to turn over documents that will lay the groundwork for repeal. to lay the groundwork for a vote to repeal the ban.
  3. Organize to elect a new Congress this November that will vote to overturn the ban.
  4. Pass legislation to repeal the ban once and for all.

Have Questions on the Decision?

If you’re wondering what yesterday’s ruling means for you, we offer some answers in our FAQ. To see our legal analysis on the decision, look here.

Want to Get Involved?

We need your support. You can donate your time and you can donate your money. See where your representatives stand on the issue, and contact them. If you’ve been impacted by the ban, share your story with us.

Justice Kennedy’s retirement, announced today, raises the stakes even further for the upcoming elections. It’s crucial our community has a voice in November, so I hope you’ll be part of our efforts.

If our community is fully invested, we will overturn this ban. 

NIAC Action Joins Civil Rights Groups in Opposing Expansion to ‘Extreme Vetting’

NIAC Action has joined a coalition of civil rights organizations today warning against the Trump Administration’s proposed expansion of its ‘extreme vetting’ policies.

Last May, NIAC Action’s sister organization, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), expressed deep concern with the proposed policy of ‘extreme vetting’ which collects social media identifiers, phone numbers and email addresses used within the past five years, as well as travel history and documentary proof of funding sources for travel for the past 15 years, among other things. Initially, the State Department ventured to gather this information for an unspecified subset of visa applicants.

Under the State Department’s new proposal, the Trump administration seeks to cast a wider net in screening the social media accounts of almost all visa applicants to make adverse visa eligibility determinations.

NIAC Action joined groups including the Brennan Center for Justice and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), in sending a public comment to the State Department opposing the Department’s new proposal.

The coalition’s public comment reiterates the positions that have been echoed to this administration for the past year: information gathered through social media is unreliable and difficult to interpret, social media collection will chill free speech and result in the inevitable incidental collection of information from third parties and American citizens, and this policy–considered against the backdrop of a broader ‘Muslim Ban’ framework aimed at targeting certain individuals based on national origin and religion–has the potential to be discriminatory in impact and intent.

“Proposals by the federal government to use social media to make adverse visa determinations have been consistently opposed by privacy, civil liberties, civil rights, and other civil society groups,” the letter states. “And the government’s own studies have not produced evidence that social media screening programs work.”

Read the full letter here.

Earlier this year, NIAC filed a lawsuit against the State Department for its failure to respond to a request made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requesting documents which would provide critical data and shine a light on how the administration has been interpreting, implementing, and enforcing ‘extreme vetting’ through data collection. As of today, the administration has still not provided the requested documents to NIAC.

NIAC Action repeats its call on Congress to intervene and immediately enact legislation rejecting this administrations latest attempt to broaden ‘extreme vetting’ data collection. After twelve months of sustained efforts to fulfill the president’s promise to have a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” it should be abundantly clear to members of Congress that this administration will stop at nothing to achieve this objective, even at the expense of Free Speech rights and other constitutional protections.