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

Coalition Letter to U.S. Senate Opposing Green Card Bill that Exacerbates the Problem

Today, NIAC Action organized and sent a letter to U.S Senators concerning our opposition to  H.R. 1044/ S. 386. Signatories of the letter included the Arab American Institute, Council on American-Islamic Relations, SAALT, as well as 11 other organizations that represent immigrant communities that would be affected by the bill. 

Why We Oppose the Green Card Bill

This legislation, disingenuously named the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act (H.R. 1044 & S. 386), would effectively close the path to green cards for Iranian nationals as well as for virtually every other nationality. It would add years of delay to the green card process for Iranians already subject to single-entry visas and the Muslim Ban. At a time when this administration has demonized immigrants from numerous countries, we believe that none of these ineffective, harmful policies, including H.R. 1044, occur in a vacuum. The best remedy for the green card backlog is to increase the number of green cards available, not pit groups of immigrants against each other, forcing them to fight for the meager amount of green cards currently available. 

What We Are Doing to Fight Back

Iranian nationals and Iranian Americans are currently being attacked from all sides. Accompanying the U.S. failed maximum pressure in Iran is the maximum restrictions on Iranians and Iranian Americans in the United States–as seen through extreme vetting and the Muslim Ban. 

NIAC Action has secured commitments from multiple U.S. Senators to block passage of H.R.1044 by unanimous consent. In addition to organizing this coalition letter, we will continue to work tirelessly with our allies in the House and Senate to ensure the bill does not become law and to explore every possible avenue to ensure only a solution that is truly fair to all immigrants can move forward. 

Take Action!

This work requires resources and our community faces political challenges that we need YOUR help to overcome. Help keep the path to green cards open for Iranians. You can contribute to this effort by contacting your lawmakers and by making a donation to ensure we continue to have the resources to stop this bill.

September 25, 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 opposition to this legislation. Given that this proposal would remove a pillar of our immigration system and have significant repercussions, we urge Senators to block the bill from moving forward for unanimous consent.

We do so for the following reasons:

  1. The bill would not fix the green card backlog faced by visa applicants. Instead, it would merely shift the backlog onto other nationals, reducing the diversity of the green card process.
  2. The bill offers a zero-sum approach that pits one group of immigrants against others to fight over a broken immigration system.
  3. A true solution would protect diversity by expanding the number of green cards available.

We agree that the substantial backlog of visa applicants is unfortunate and needs to be addressed. But H.R. 1044/S. 386 is not a fair solution and risks further problems, such as creating what the State Department has referred to as a “monopoly” of the green card process for one group of nationals and eliminate any diversity from the process. We urge Senators to object to the bill moving forward by unanimous consent and reject what would be a counterproductive attempt at fixing a long-standing, complex problem.

Sincerely,

18 Million Rising
Adhikaar
Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice
All of Us
Arab American Institute
Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs (APAPA)
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO
Council on American-Islamic Relations
Emgage Action
Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC)
Italian American Democratic Leadership Council
Justice for Muslims Collective
MPower Change
National Iranian American Council Action
National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates
Pakistani American Political Action Committee (PAKPAC Membership)
Project South
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
UndocuBlack Network
United Chinese Americans
United Macedonian Diaspora
United We Dream

 

30 Organizations Call on Congress to Prohibit Unauthorized War with Iran

September 17, 2019

The Honorable James Inhofe Chairman,
Senate Committee on Armed Services Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Adam Smith Chairman,
House Armed Service Committee Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Jack Reed
Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Armed Services Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Mac Thornberry Ranking Member,
House Armed Service Committee Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Inhofe, Ranking Member Reed, Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Thornberry:

As pro-diplomacy organizations that oppose unauthorized war with Iran, we call on the National Defense Authorization Act conferees to retain language supported by a bipartisan majority in both chambers that would prohibit funds for military action against Iran without explicit authorization from Congress.

The Trump Administration has repeatedly signaled its intent to subvert Congress’ constitutional prerogative to decide when the United States will and will not go to war. The Administration violated and abandoned the agreement restraining Iran’s nuclear activities and engaged in a series of escalations with Iran. While Iran has ratcheted up the tension with destabilizing actions of its own, the Trump Administration’s provocations and saber rattling have made conflict, not diplomacy, more likely. Having reportedly come within minutes of launching a military strike on Iran a few months ago, the president has again threatened the imminent use of force in response to attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure.

The question of whether American forces should be put in harm’s way is one of the utmost gravity. The Constitution gives the power of the purse and the power to declare war to Congress, and Congress alone. Congress needs to assert its constitutional powers to prevent decisions about the use of force being made by an administration that has acted with gross recklessness and profoundly weakened key alliances and multilateral partnerships essential to addressing threats from Iran. Escalation by the United States risks both further alienation and getting mired in another disastrous war in the region.

Bipartisan majorities in both chambers support blocking funds for unauthorized military strikes against Iran. Although the Senate bill did not include such a provision, 51 Senators indicated their support for the Kaine-Udall amendment that would have added it to the Senate-passed version of the legislation. In the House, 251 Representatives voted for the Khanna-Gaetz amendment prohibiting funds from being used for military action against Iran without explicit authorization from Congress.

Given the bipartisan majority in both chambers supportive of ruling out an unauthorized war with Iran, the conferees must ensure the Khanna-Gaetz amendment is fully included in the final bill.

Failing to honor the will of the American people’s elected representatives on this point, at the very moment the administration is barreling toward an unauthorized and costly war of choice, would be an undemocratic and historic abdication of constitutional responsibility.

Signed,

American College of National Security Leaders
Americans for Peace Now
Arab American Institute
Arms Control Association
Center for American Progress
Center for International Policy
Council on American-Islamic Relations
Common Defense
Council for a Livable World
CREDO Action
Demand Progress
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Foreign Policy for America
Global Security Institute
Indivisible
J Street 
Just Foreign Policy
MoveOn
NIAC Action
Open Society Policy Center
Peace Action
Peace Corps Iran Association
Ploughshares Fund
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Truman National Security Project
T’ruah
VoteVets
Union of Concerned Scientists
Win Without War
Women’s Action for New Directions

cc: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer

Memo: Congress Must Clarify No Authorization for Iran War, Urge Deescalation after Saudi Oil Attack

President Trump is once again hinting that he will go to war with Iran via Twitter, this time over attacks on key Saudi Arabian oil facilities for which the Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed credit. At this time, there is no clear smoking gun to implicate Iran despite the Trump administration’s strident condemnations.

For lawmakers, it is imperative to reinforce:

1)   Congress has not authorized war against Iran, nor has the United Nations. Any strikes on Iran without authorization would be illegal.

2)   There is no clear evidence implicating Iran – but even if there was, a Trump-led war on a nation nearly four times the size of Iraq would be a costly, generational mistake. Iran has signaled it will retaliate forcefully against any attacks on its territory.

3)   If it was the Houthis who initiated the attack, as they have claimed, it is yet another clear sign that the Yemen war needs to end. Not only is the war a disaster for Yemen, but it is achieving the opposite of its goals by eroding the security of Saudi Arabia.

4)   If Iran is implicated as the sponsor of the attack, it would be yet another sign that Trump’s maximum pressure approach is a catastrophic failure. Far from ease regional tensions and Iran’s military footprint, Trump’s approach is ensuring the reverse.

5)   Regardless of the sponsor, now is the time for de-escalation. The skeleton for a deal is on the table – the international community would ease economic pressure on Iran in exchange for Iranian restraint and further negotiations. 

We are at this crisis point because of the convergence of two self-inflicted disasters spurred by our impulsive President: the decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal and impose “maximum pressure” sanctions; and the refusal to pull out of the war on Yemen and seriously press for Saudi Arabia to deescalate there.

At this juncture, Trump can choose diplomacy and peace or repeat the mistakes that led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq with Iran. With the region at a boiling point, all lawmakers need to be strongly urging restraint and reinforcing that there is no authorization for war.

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

Update in Our Fight Against H.R. 392’s Unfair Consequences

Thanks in large part to the activism of impacted Iranian nationals studying and working in the United States and rapid response of NIAC Action, 2018 is almost certain to end without passage of H.R. 392/S. 281, the so-called “Fairness for Highly-Skilled Immigrants Act.”

This bill would eliminate nationality-based caps on key visa categories, which would benefit nationals from India and China at the expense of immigrants from smaller countries who would be hit hard. For Iranian nationals in particular, subject to the Muslim ban and relying on single-entry visas, the passage of the legislation would have been a tremendous blow – adding years of wait-time to an already-difficult period where they are separated from loved ones in Iran.

The bill was subject to furious lobbying from Indian immigrant advocacy groups and several major tech companies, which succeeded in adding it to the House homeland security spending bill. The negative side effects of this legislation were largely ignored or misunderstood by Congressional offices, and in August it appeared to be on the fast track to passage.

NIAC Action was one of the first organizations to publicly oppose H.R. 392/S. 281 and mobilize against it. We led an effort against the legislation that included meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, disseminating briefing materials on the negative effects of the measure, and engaging immigration policy and advocacy organizations to consider opposing the legislation. We also mobilized our grassroots network and provided resources to potentially impacted individuals who wanted to express their voice through calls and meetings with Congressional staff. Ultimately, we secured commitments from key legislators to prevent the measure from becoming law.

Through these actions, NIAC Action and Iranian nationals across the country made clear that the bill would be a major shakeup of America’s immigration system undertaken with little consideration of its impact, helping to arrest the bill’s momentum. Just this past week, a column in the widely-distributed Foreign Policy highlighted the major ramifications of H.R. 392’s passage on the Iranian community.

Moreover, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) – which represents a broad group of South Asian Americans and nationals in the United States – published a detailed analysis of this issue warning that passage of H.R. 392 would merely shift the burden of wait times onto other nationals, including those from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and nationals impacted by this administration’s discriminatory immigration policies like the Muslim Ban. Other groups such as the American Hospital Association also announced their opposition to H.R. 392 publicly.

Any remaining possibility for passage via 2018 spending, however, was eliminated when negotiations fully broke down over funding for Trump’s border wall. In insisting for spending for his wall, Trump spiked the possible vehicle that could have potentially passed H.R. 392 in 2018. This shifts the fight to 2019, when negotiations over spending bills will once again resume. Given H.R. 392’s attachment to the 2018 House spending bill on homeland security, it is likely that it will still be in the mix of increasingly complicated negotiations. However, NIAC Action will seek to build on our momentum in 2019, block the successor to H.R. 392 from being passed in the months ahead and ensure that Iranian nationals are not again subjected to unfair immigration legislation. Our legislative and grassroots organizing combined with our relationships on Capitol Hill place us in a position to block H.R. 392/S. 281 so long as it unnecessarily and unfairly threatens our community.

Memo on H.R. 4591

Tomorrow, the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on H.R. 4591, the “Preventing Destabilization of Iraq Act of 2017,” which seeks to impose sanctions on persons engaged in actions that are or risk “threatening the peace or stability of Iraq.” While we welcome that the amendment in the nature of a substitute has removed explicit references to sanctioning Iran in the bill’s title, this legislation clearly remains an effort to ratchet up tensions with Iran.

On the heels of House Republicans protecting Saudi Arabia by blocking a vote to end U.S. support for the disastrous war in Yemen, it is now doubling down on the Trump-Saudi policy of escalating pressure on Iran with no plan for negotiations. Only diplomatic solutions can resolve the proxy conflicts in the Middle East – not further efforts to perpetuate these conflicts by insulating the Saudi kingdom or escalating with Iran. As a result, H.R. 4591 risks worsening regional instability rather than ameliorating it, and as a result is bad for both Iraq and the U.S. position in the Middle East.

Backward Priorities

The timing of the vote on H.R. 4591 demonstrates the House majority’s backward priorities with respect to the Middle East. Credible estimates indicate that more than 80,000 children may have died of starvation as a result of the U.S.-backed and Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen since 2015, with little end in sight to the unauthorized war. Moreover, the President of the United States is shamefully playing defense for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after the Central Intelligence Agency determined with high confidence that bin Salman ordered the assassination of U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, which was carried out last month at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The response of the House Majority to these two major crises has been to follow Trump’s lead and to short-circuit debate on a resolution to end America’s backing of the Saudi intervention. However, any legislation to further Trump’s pressure campaign against Iran – including H.R. 4591 – will get the green light. Given these suspect priorities, legislators should use debate over H.R. 4591 to highlight the Trump administration’s dangerous Middle East policies, including U.S. support for the war in Yemen and the dangerous decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal.

A balanced U.S. policy toward the Middle East will take time, but work should begin now to end U.S. support for the disastrous war in Yemen, impose consequences on those in Saudi Arabia responsible for the assassination of Khashoggi, and restore U.S. credibility by returning to the JCPOA.

Doubling Down on Hostility without Diplomacy

While political stability in Iraq is a laudable goal, it is unlikely to be achieved by a strictly adversarial posture towards Iran – particularly considering Iran’s security interests in Iraq are likely to figure of far greater import than the risk of limited U.S. sanctions posed by H.R. 4591.

Instead, the Trump administration and Congress must recognize that Iraq’s political future requires political engagement between the U.S. and Iran – both of which have a significant presence in the country and both of which have staked their political security on Iraq’s internal stability. For this reason – to the extent that the Congress believes that punitive sanctions are useful in influencing Iran’s behavior – such sanctions must be expressly tied to diplomatic engagement with Iran regarding events in Iraq.

For its part, Iraq cannot afford a rupture in its ties with Iran. The two countries have over $12 billion in annual trade and other deep connections. The administration’s granting of waivers to Iraq on Iran sanctions for gas, energy supplies, and food items reflects an acknowledgement of the depth of Iraqi-Iranian ties—which developed after the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Iraqi leaders such as former PM Haider al-Abadi have made clear that they do not wish for Iraq to be a theater in U.S.-Iran tensions. Instead, the Iraqi government has sought to balance its relations with the U.S. and Iran. As was evident in June 2014, when Iran helped to prevent ISIS from overrunning Baghdad, the U.S. and Iran have overlapping interests in Iraq and thus need not remain implacable enemies there.

Moreover, at a time when the President is destroying diplomatic channels by sabotaging an agreement that exchanged sanctions relief for far-reaching Iranian nuclear concessions, legislating further sanctions would merely demonstrate the U.S. Congress’ backward priorities when it comes to Iran.

Rather than encourage Trump’s pressure campaign and increase the likelihood of a military confrontation, as many of the President’s closest advisors favor, lawmakers should seek to restrain the administration. To help Iraqi stability, the U.S. must appreciate the fine line that Baghdad must walk in its relations with Iran and the United States. The Trump administration must move beyond overstating the scale of the Iranian threat in Iraq and its obsessive denial of Iranian influence.  

Bill Summary

The original text of H.R. 4591 was wholly aimed at countering Iranian persons threatening stability in Iraq, which has since been amended to a more general focus on foreign persons. However, given the intent of the authors and the single-minded focus of the Trump administration on countering Iran throughout the Middle East, it is without a doubt that the White House would view this legislation as support for its broader pressure campaign and a green light to aggressively escalate sanctions against Iran over its activities in Iraq.

Section 2 of H.R. 4591 mandates the President to block the assets of any foreign person determined to knowingly commit a significant act of violence that has the direct purpose or effect of:

  • Threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq;
  • Undermining the democratic process in Iraq; and
  • Undermining significantly efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people.

Any Iranian persons or entities designated pursuant to Section 2 of H.R. 4591 would also be subject to U.S. secondary sanctions by virtue of current U.S. sanctions targeting Iran.

Section 3 of H.R. 4591 requires the President to determine whether several Shia militias and individuals meet the criteria for designation as foreign terrorist organizations or for the application of sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13224 as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

Section 4 requires the Secretary of State to submit an annual report to Congress on the armed groups, militias, or proxy forces in Iraq receiving logistical, military, or financial assistance from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) or over which the IRGC exerts any form of control or influence.

NIAC Action Applauds Senate Effort on Muslim Ban

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jamal Abdi
Phone: 202-386-6408
Email: jamal@niacaction.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – NIAC Action released the following statement after the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment from Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Patrick Leahy D-VT mandating Congressional oversight of the implementation of Presidential Proclamation 9645, commonly referred to as Muslim Ban 3.0:

“The American people and Congress are thankfully recognizing that this administration’s outrageous actions on immigration cannot continue in the dark. Senators Leahy and Van Hollen deserve tremendous credit for offering this amendment and ensuring its passage through the Senate Appropriations Committee. As we await a decision from the Supreme Court on the legality of Trump’s third ban, these reporting requirements begin to ensure that President Trump’s Muslim ban receives scrutiny not just from the courts but also from the U.S. Congress.

“Earlier this week, NIAC Action along with 50 other organizations – including the American Civil Liberties Union, Brennan Center for Justice and National Immigration Law Center- implored Congress to institute oversight on the ban, stating ‘After a year and a half of turning a blind eye to a policy that impacts their Muslim, Iranian American, and other constituents, Congress must exert some basic oversight.’ As we have seen over this period, the ban along with ‘extreme vetting’, have achieved the intended result of plummeting visa issuances to applicants from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

“Among other things, the Secretary of State will be mandated to submit regular updates to Congress which include the total number of applicants granted and denied waivers under the case-by-case waiver provision of Muslim Ban 3.0. The reports provided by the Secretary of State will be submitted in unclassified form and made publicly available online for the American people to access.

“Today’s reporting requirement language makes significant progress towards transparency and accountability. It gives the American people necessary information about a concealed policy that has remained shrouded in secrecy, while also providing Congress the necessary information to carry out its function of oversight to hold this Administration accountable to the American people.

“NIAC Action thanks Senators Van Hollen and Leahy for their courage and stewardship on this exceedingly important issue, in addition to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for including the provision in the chairman’s mark. Now, Congress must ensure that these vital and noncontroversial oversight provisions are included in the final bill.”

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52 Organizations Demand Congressional Oversight of Trump’s Muslim Ban and Extreme Vetting

Washington, D.C. – On the eve of a potential decision by the Supreme Court on Trump’s Muslim ban, fifty-two organizations representing millions of Americans have signed a letter calling on Congress to take necessary steps to obtain full information about the Trump Administration implementation of it’s Muslim Ban and “extreme vetting” policies. The letter was signed by groups including the ACLU, Brennan Center for Justice, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, and NIAC Action.

“We’ve seen the Trump administration pull out all the stops to institute the President’s campaign promise to prevent Muslims from entering the United States,” said NIAC Action Executive Director Jamal Abdi. “The current Congress has failed to engage in any oversight of the Muslim Ban, let alone all of the other administrative measures in place that amount to a backdoor Muslim Ban and which will remain in place regardless of how the Supreme Court rules.”

In the eighteen months that have passed since the Trump Administration rolled out the Muslim Ban and began enforcing extreme vetting procedures, Congress has not passed a single piece of legislation or held any hearings on the subject. In one of the rare cases in which some lawmakers have investigated the implementation of these policies, the State Department revealed that it was largely noncompliant with its obligation to issue waivers to persons banned under Trump’s Executive Orders.

The letter calls on Congress to mandate that the State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services report regularly on how many people have been impacted by the Muslim Ban and extreme vetting procedures. This information would give Congress and the public the necessary information to ensure the Administration is complying with the law and the Constitution.

“The Trump administration should be checked by both the courts and the U.S. Congress, but so far Congress has failed to act as a co-equal branch when it comes to the unconscionable Muslim ban,” said Abdi. “After a year and a half of turning a blind eye to a policy that impacts their Muslim, Iranian American, and other constituents, Congress must exert some basic oversight.”

Find the letter below:

Signed Letter Requesting Congressional Oversight of the Muslim Ban updated

House NDAA Clarifies Trump Has No War Authorization for Iran

 

 

 

 

Jamal Abdi, Executive Director of NIAC Action, issued the following statement after the House of Representatives passed a version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) clarifying that the use of armed forces against Iran is not authorized by Congress:

“The House of Representatives just made clear that the President does not have authorization from Congress to launch a war against Iran. This is vital, as the elevation of Iran warhawks in John Bolton and Mike Pompeo and the violation of the Iran nuclear deal has put another disastrous war of choice in the Middle East back on the table.

“Trump himself has hinted at military action against Iran and both he and Pompeo have taken a page from the Iraq war playbook by falsely linking Iran to al-Qaeda. Representatives Keith Ellison (D-MN), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Jim McGovern (D-MA), and Walter Jones (R-NC) deserve tremendous credit for taking a stand for peace and Congress’ Constitutional war-making authorities by introducing the amendment and ensuring its passage in the House. Now, the Senate should make sure that this clear statement of fact is included in the final version of the NDAA.

“This is a welcome step, but far more political and legal constraints are needed to ensure Trump, Bolton and Pompeo cannot put their war plans into place. The Trump administration has shredded norms and constraints across the board, and with Iran that is no exception. Unless lawmakers want to see the mistakes of the Iraq war repeated, they need to step up and rein in the Trump administration on Iran across the board.”

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NIAC Action Statement on Confirmation of Pompeo

Washington, DC – NIAC Action Executive Director Jamal Abdi issued the following statement after the US Senate voted to confirm Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo:

“The Senate has made a mistake of historic proportions by rubber stamping Donald Trump’s war cabinet. The U.S. appears headed towards a catastrophic exit from the Iran deal in spite of the pleas of our closest allies and Mike Pompeo will only encourage Trump off the brink. Along with National Security Advisor John Bolton, Trump will now be surrounded by advisors eager to finish scrapping the deal, alienating our allies, and beginning a major destabilization in the region that could likely lead to war with Iran. Pompeo has proven he has no interest for diplomatic solutions with Iran and, like Bolton, favors a violent U.S.-led regime change.

“The Senate failed to put country over party and every Senator who voted for Pompeo is responsible for what comes next. We are disappointed in Republicans and Democrats who continue to fail to reign in this reckless President. While the GOP is acting as Trump’s rubber stamp, even the Senate’s Democratic leadership failed to take necessary actions to stop Pompeo.

“A majority on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did recognize the unique danger of Pompeo and nearly sunk his nomination before Senator Rand Paul flipped his vote. Having failed to block Pompeo, every member of Congress who claimed to have concerns with Pompeo’s hawkish inclinations is now accountable to take immediate action to stop an escalation and war in the Middle East. Congress must restrain Trump and prevent his war cabinet from withdrawing from the nuclear deal and starting a new, disastrous war of choice in the Middle East.

“Qualified Secretaries of State are usually confirmed with almost unanimous support. Pompeo owes his divisive nomination to his own poor judgment. He has beat the drums of war with Iran and stigmatized Muslims, immigrants, women, the LGBTQ community, and anyone who did not fit into his narrow and bigoted vision for America. While we hope that the responsibility of the office changes him for the better, he has failed to face significant consequences for his divisive past and is unlikely to change in the future.”

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Senators Demand More Information from State Department on Muslim Ban

Washington, DC – Today, Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) issued a letter to the Trump administration requesting more information on the obscure case-by-case waiver process of Presidential Proclamation 9645, otherwise known as Muslim Ban 3.0. The letter comes as the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments on the ban next Wednesday.

In an attempt to overcome legal challenges to the first Muslim Ban, the Trump administration included a waiver process for certain applicants in the second iteration of the ban. The waivers are something that was also included in Muslim Ban 3.0. But recently, the State Department, in a letter to Senators Jeff Flake and Chris Van Hollen on February 22, 2018, revealed that only two waivers had been granted between December 8, 2017 and February 15, 2018. Two weeks later, the State Department revised this number to 250 waivers, and most recently, they have asserted that 450 waivers have been issued.

Obtaining credible and reliable information is critical to fighting the Muslim Ban in the event that the Supreme Court upholds the ban later this summer, but it is also an important part of fighting back against all outgrowths of the Muslim Ban policy, including ‘backdoor’ administrative bans. NIAC Action has been hard at work behind the scenes drafting reporting requirement language which would provide Congressional oversight on how these case-by-case waivers are evaluated and adjudicated. If the administration is responsive to the Senators’ inquiry, we will have a window into how Muslim Ban 3.0 is being implemented, and will have more data to evaluate whether the waiver provision is more than just an sham attempt to sway the courts to rule the ban constitutional by alleviating concerns of a blanket ban that plagued the administration’s first Muslim Ban.

The letter sent today by Senators Van Hollen, Murphy and Blumenthal also seeks relevant documents and information on the reports submitted by the Department of Homeland Security to the White House every 180 days recommending changes to Muslim Ban 3.0. In addition, the Senators are requesting further information on any guidance issued to consular officers abroad on how to evaluate and adjudicate waiver requests, as well as data on how many visas applications have been received and processed from designated countries.

In addition to our efforts to establish Congressional oversight on the Ban, last week NIAC also filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration in an effort to compel them to produce documents from a Freedom of Information Act request sent several months ago requesting relevant documents about the ‘extreme vetting’ policy. If the court rules in our favor and compels the production of these documents, we will have another opportunity to look behind the veil of secrecy draped around Muslim Ban 3.0 by this administration.

The Muslim Ban is much broader than just the travel restrictions being challenged in the Supreme Court next week. It is a highly nuanced and complicated policy which extends to administrative efforts to ban Iranians and Muslims and fulfill a campaign promise. ‘Extreme vetting’ and the case-by-case waiver process are just two examples of this much broader policy that is being implemented as the official immigration policy of the United States.

NIAC Action will continue to take the fight to Trump, because not only is there’s a lot at stake here for our community, there’s a lot at stake for the future of this country. We are an Iranian-American organization, and what follows the hyphen is just as important as what precedes it — it is who we are.

NIAC Action is extremely grateful for the engagement of Senators Van Hollen, Murphy and Blumenthal on this urgent issue, and we look forward to continuing to work with Congress to shine a light on what has been a very harmful and secretive policy.