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.

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. 

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

Tell Trump: “No Backdoor Muslim Ban!”


Donald Trump’s illegal Muslim Ban Executive Orders have been knocked down by the courts twice. Now he is trying another way to implement his discriminatory agenda: new “extreme vetting” requirements in visa applications.

If approved, this policy would be devastating for our communities. It would let the Trump Administration gather huge amounts of personal data about visa applicants, including their social media history for the past five years and their travel history for the past fifteen years. The Trump Administration would then be able to use this vast amount of information to reject visas; if they wrongly reject someone’s visa application, it is very hard to fight that decision.

Collecting this social media information is particularly frightening. We have already seen cases where visas were denied because U.S. government officials misunderstood innocent social media posts. Collecting this information on such a vast scale is sure to lead to widespread rejection of visas for inappropriate reasons, and the language about who can be targeted for this information collection is so broad that it can encompass huge groups of people. Given this administration’s unchecked xenophobia and Islamophobia, this policy is sure to be used very heavily against Iranians and other individuals from countries targeted by Trump’s Muslim Ban Executive Order.

The Trump Administration is once again trying to push a Muslim Ban, this time by calling it “extreme vetting.” We should not be fooled. Take action today to protect our communities from this Backdoor Ban!

New Legislation Seeks to Put Body Cameras on Airport Officers

Since the implementation of Trump’s Muslim ban, a staggering number of Iranians and other travelers have been detained for many hours and harassed in airports. In response to this ongoing problem, Congressman Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) introduced H.R. 1608, a bill requiring U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers to wear body cameras when engaged in official operations. The bill is currently in committee in the House of Representatives, awaiting a committee vote.

This bill aims to hold officers accountable, as the footage from the body cameras can be used to help settle disputes regarding the legality of the officer’s conduct. According to Congressman Espaillat, the bill would “help address the numerous concerning reports where immigration agents used coercive methods to extract information and fabricated the testimonies from immigrants.”

This legislation is especially needed today in order to assure that the court’s limitations on Trump’s Muslim Ban are appropriate and consistently carried out. Many travelers are not aware of their rights and could be manipulated by ICE and CBP officers who are abusing their authority. After numerous cases of people being detained and harassed in airports swept the news headlines, it became increasingly evident that there must be some sort of accountability mechanism put in place to limit the officers’ unchecked power.

In February, Iranians traveling to the U.S. felt the brunt of Trump’s mandate when amidst the chaos of the Travel Ban they were illegally detained by ICE officers and forced to sign documents in a language they did not fully understand. An Iranian man “with a family based immigrant visa…was detained at Los Angeles International airport for 18 hours” without food or a place to sleep. He was forced to sign a document claiming he was leaving the US voluntarily and physically carried onto a plane to Dubai against his will.

Slate magazine reported that another “elderly Iranian couple—both of whom were lawful permanent residents—say they were detained for 10 hours at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport after returning from their son’s wedding in Iran. The two were denied access to food for the length of their detention….CBP officers refused to inform the couple’s immediate family whether the couple had been allowed to take necessary medications.”

Even within the small number of cases in which cameras were in use, it did not deter ICE officers’ reckless behavior. In 2013, a sixteen-year-old boy carrying two containers of liquid methamphetamine across the Mexican border was forced by officers to drink several times from a container, resulting in the young boy’s death. This information did not come to light until this July when the footage was released.

If a surveillance camera were not recording the incident, it would have likely never been brought to the public’s attention and the family may not have ever known what happened to their loved one.

The House has shown its support for body cameras in the past when it commended the Customs and Border Protection’s plan to conduct a pilot program. The House Appropriations Committee stated in its Fiscal Year 2015 Department of Homeland Security Report that the cameras “can be useful in discouraging inappropriate conduct by law enforcement officers and have also exonerated officers accused of wrongdoing.”  

This bill is critical in providing the degree of oversight necessary in ensuring transparency and that officials are held accountable. Without video footage, accusations of officials’ abuse become one person’s word against another’s. Body cameras will serve to protect both officers and the public by providing reliable evidence of the truth in the case of a conflict. H.R. 1608 is co-sponsored by 37 Democratic congressmen but currently lacks the GOP support it will need to be passed.


Iranian grandparents are now banned from the U.S.

NIAC Policy Director Jamal Abdi and his grandmother

I was nine years old when I finally met my grandparents. After years of only seeing them in old photos and hearing about them in my dad’s stories about growing up in Tehran, they finally were able to make the trip to America and meet their grandchildren for the first time.

Donald Trump just announced that my grandparents are now banned from this country.

Beginning today, a new version of Trump’s Muslim ban will go back into effect. The Supreme Court ordered that Trump’s travel ban could go forward – but could not apply to people who have a “bonafide relationship” with an American. In response, Trump has released a directive that Iranians and other “banned” nationals would have to prove their “bona fide relationship” in order to apply for a visa.

Trump’s directive establishes the categories of relationships that are allowed in, and those who are not: Grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, fiancees and other extended family members are not serious enough relationships to enter the U.S., according to Trump’s new ban.

The bottom line: if your extended family member is Iranian, they are now banned from entering the U.S.

We are going to fight this with everything we’ve got. But we need your financial support in order to have the staff and resources necessary to seriously challenge this assault against our community and our country’s values.

DONATE to defeat Trump’s ban!

We are confronting this ban from every angle:

  1. NIAC volunteers and staff associates are continuously meeting with allies in Congress and their home districts to try to force a vote on legislation that will rescind and defund the Muslim Ban. We can no longer rely solely on the courts to fight this ban for us. We must rally our lawmakers to take a stand on this un-American ban.
  2. We organized our members in New Mexico to meet with Rep. Pearce and voice their concerns and USA Today ran a story about it. After hearing from our community Rep. Pearce – a Republican – publicly criticized Trump’s ban.
  3. We have a plan in Congress to force those who refuse to take our concerns seriously to finally take a public stand on the ban and be judged by their voters. NO MORE HIDING.
  4. NIAC has already requested documents and statistics from the Trump administration to build the foundation for a second wave of litigation against the ban.

NIAC staff and volunteers  are deployed across the country to defeat the Muslim Ban. But we need your financial support to continue representing the interests of our community. With your support we will remain ready to advocate for you.

Will you donate $50, $100, $1000 or an amount that’s right for you so that we can redouble our efforts to defeat Trump’s ban and make our Iranian grandparents welcome again?

Take Action: Say No to Extreme Vetting!


Tell the Trump administration NO to a Muslim ban through “extreme vetting.”

Donald Trump and Rex Tillerson just unveiled their proposal for “extreme vetting” that could target Iranians seeking to come to the United States. While Trump has been unable to clear his despicable Muslim ban through the courts, he and his administration are now seeking new ways to prevent our friends and loved ones from Iran from visiting us in the U.S.

We have an opportunity to weigh in and send a deafening message to Trump that this will not stand. The Trump administration is legally required to accept public comment on its proposed “extreme vetting” proposal questions through May 18th. We need to send a powerful message that the American people – including the Iranian-American community – stands united against Trump’s anti-Iranian, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideology.

Take action today to tell the Trump administration “NO” to a Muslim ban through “extreme vetting.”

Trump’s “extreme vetting” proposal includes broad new authorities to reject visas for certain travelers. Most shockingly, it would require certain visa applicants to provide all of their social media history over the past five years. When the U.S. starts giving consular officers broad, undefined authorities to block visas based on a person’s Facebook posts, there is no telling how this power will be used. Will visas be denied for people who have made social media posts critical of Trump or his policies?

The proposal also requires applicants to provide fifteen years of personal history – including their employment history, places they have travelled or lived, and how they funded such travel. If an applicant is unable to provide full information about a vacation they had over a decade ago, there is a chance they would be rejected. Giving such broad license to reject visa applicants is an invitation for abuse. Much of this proposal is still being kept a secret, but if the Trump administration’s actions thus far are any indication, “extreme vetting” is going to be exploited to target ordinary Iranians and keep people from Muslim-majority countries out of this country.

Trump hasn’t been able to ram his Muslim ban through the courts, so his administration is trying to impose it through other means – including this “extreme vetting” proposal. We need to sound the alarm on these efforts if we are going to stop him. Your efforts can make a difference, please submit your public comment against Trump’s “extreme vetting” right away.

Federal Register: Notice of Information Collection Under OMB Emergency Review >>

Reuters: State Dept. Seeks Tougher Visa Scrutiny, Including Social Media Checks. Read More >>






Virtual Protest Q&A

Why a “virtual protest”?

  • By calling our lawmakers together at the same time, we light up our lawmaker’s phone lines and have our voices heard in unison. Just like an in-person protest, the more people that show up together, the more powerful our impact.
What are we asking lawmakers to do?
  • We have one ask for our House lawmakers and three asks for our Senate lawmakers. You can follow the script on the call-in page but here is some background on those asks:
  1. For both the House and the Senate: Legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate that would repeal Trump’s immigration ban – we want all of our lawmakers to get behind these bills.
  2. For just the Senate: Additionally, we are urging Senators to also block the nominations of Trump’s cabinet nominations who would enforce the Executive Order – Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson and Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions.
  3. For just the Senate: Finally, in the Senate we are also urging that Senators withhold consent to all Senate actions, which means they would object to the Senate’s regular proceedings so that nothing moves forward until the ban is reversed.
What if my lawmaker already supports all of my asks?
  • It is important for them to hear from their constituents how important this is and that you have their backs.
  • In the Senate, if one or both of your Senators already support the legislation, they can still take further action – which is why we have the two additional asks on nominees and withholding consent.
  • For the House, if your Representative already supports the legislation and you want to go beyond thanking them, there is more you can do: make calls to other targeted lawmakers in vulnerable seats. These are Representatives in swing districts who are under the most pressure to stand up to Trump. We have included a list of these lawmakers, along with a phone numbers to connect with them, at the bottom of this page. Because lawmakers listen to their constituents, we encourage that you call targeted lawmakers where you have some connection, such as working in their district or having a network in their district.

Critical Update #3: What Trump’s Ban Means for You

President Trump has issued an executive order banning Iranians and individuals from 6 other countries from entering the U.S. The final executive order is worse than the leaked draft, and the Trump Administration has implemented the order against Iranian nationals, Iranian dual nationals, and even U.S. permanent residents who were born in Iran.

  • If you are an Iranian national outside of the U.S. with a valid U.S. visa, you will not be able to enter the United States.
  • Iranian nationals who are also citizens of a 3rd country (e.g. Canada) will still be barred from entering the United States, according to the State Department.
  • U.S. permanent resident aliens (green card holders) from Iran who are outside of the United States will be barred from reentry, according to a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson.
    • Green card holders must apply for a case-by-case exemption from the Department of Homeland Security to be allowed reentry to the United States.
  • U.S. citizens will not be directly affected by the ban.
  • There is nothing to indicate that persons on valid visas inside the United States will be expelled so long as they do not leave the country and have a legal basis for remaining in the U.S.

NIAC is deeply concerned with this un-American policy, and is actively pursuing legal and Congressional strategies for ending it.

The initial ban on entering the U.S. is for 90 days, up from the 30 days in the leaked draft. However, the ban is likely to become permanent for some countries, with Iranians being a likely target for a permanent ban.

The list of targeted countries is based on the discriminatory visa waiver bill (H.R.158) passed in 2015 shortly after Trump called for a Muslim ban. It will bar entry for aliens from Iran, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, and Somalia.  The order says that, after the 90 day suspension of entry, the Department of State and Homeland Security will present a report of countries that do not provide enough information to the U.S. to ensure visa applicants from that country are not a threat. The President will then ban all entrants from those countries.

Mindful of the tensions between the U.S. and Iranian governments we are skeptical that Iran would comply with such requirements or that, if it did comply, the Trump Administration would accept such efforts. This would, in effect, mean a permanent ban on entry for Iranians.

This measure is a slap in the face of our entire community. We have talked to parents who will be prevented from reuniting with their young children, students who will not be able to return from conferences abroad, and spouses who will be held in limbo away from their loved ones.

We have sent tens of thousands of letters and calls to the White House and Congress opposing this order. The President has very broad powers in this area, but we are actively working with Members of Congress to oppose this deeply un-American measure and we are exploring legal options.

The next step is to e-mail your members of Congress immediately to urge them to speak out against this action. Building opposition in Congress is crucial. On Monday, we will send an action alert asking you again to call your Members of Congress. Our community has never come under such direct assault, and we must mobilize like never before.

If you wish to support our efforts to fight this discriminatory and inhumane action, we welcome your contribution here.

Trump’s Muslim Ban is Real and Even Worse Than Imagined

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

Washington, DC – NIAC Action issued the following statement based on language of a reported Executive Order that President Donald Trump plans to sign tomorrow:

“Trump’s Muslim ban is real and even more draconian than many anticipated. Visa holders, dual nationals, and even green card holders from Muslim-majority countries may be barred indefinitely from the United States. Based on our analysis of the Executive Order language that is circulating, nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria and Yemen who are outside of the U.S. with a valid U.S. visa will not be able to enter the United States. The order is written in such a broad manner that it may also prohibit dual nationals of those countries who are citizens of non-targeted countries from entering the U.S. on a visa. Perhaps most alarmingly, it can be interpreted to bar even U.S. permanent residents who are outside of the United States from re-entering.

“We in the Iranian-American community are already feeling the effects of this proposed actions. Plans for family to visit, for loved ones to return home, for family friends to join us to study in U.S. schools, are now in jeopardy. There is a palpable feeling of being torn apart from our friends and loved ones. Just a year ago, we were full of hope that the American people and the Iranian people were heading down a new road of engagement thanks to the nuclear deal. Now we are not even sure if parents will be able to attend weddings in the U.S. or if we need to put travel plans abroad on hold for fear of being blocked from coming back.

“NIAC Action calls on the Trump Administration to reconsider this dangerous course of action and for lawmakers to publicly oppose this plan before Trump’s finalization of the order, which is expected tomorrow. Further, any nominations to key national security or civil rights-related posts, including Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson and Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, should be put on hold until these actions can be fully evaluated and nominees address the public’s concerns.

“The list of countries targeted under the Executive Order is based on a discriminatory visa waiver bill (H.R.158) passed in 2015 shortly after then-candidate Trump called for a Muslim ban. We warned then of a slippery slope and are now on the way to a much darker vision of America than many of us could have imagined.

“The ban will initially last for 30 days but it is likely that for some countries it will be permanent. The document says that, after the 30 day suspension of entry, the Department of State and Homeland Security will present a report of countries that do not provide enough information to the U.S. to ensure visa applicants from that country are not a threat. Those countries will be given 60 days to address those issues and comply with U.S. requirements. If they do not, a Presidential proclamation will be issued to ban all entrants from that country.

“For Iran, mindful of the tensions between U.S. and Iranian governments we are skeptical that Iran would comply with such requirements or that, if it did comply, the Trump Administration would accept such efforts. This would, in effect, mean a permanent ban on entry for Iranians.”



President Trump: Don’t Ban Iranians and Muslims



President Trump issued an executive order banning Iranians and individuals from six other Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. The final executive order is worse than the draft leaked earlier this week, and the Trump Administration continues to leave vital questions unanswered.

For more information about how this order may affect you or your loved ones, see our update here.

At this point, the trajectory should be clear to all:

What started with the discriminatory Visa Waiver bill H.R. 158 in late 2015 has now evolved into a blanket ban for Iranian passport holders, only to be followed by an “ideological” test that Iranians and six other nationalities – but not others – will be subjected to.

The citizens of these countries are collectively responsible for ZERO American deaths in terror attacks on US soil.

This is discriminatory. This is un-American. And last but not least: This is dangerous as it pits Americans against Americans while undermining the very principles of inclusivity and tolerance that made America great.

Let’s not be silent – we must make our collective voices heard. Send a letter to President Trump RIGHT NOW to register your opposition. We will be in touch over the coming days and hours as this develops so that we can work together to stop this dangerous path of division.