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.
18 Million Rising
All of Us
Council on American-Islamic Relations
Justice for Muslims Collective
MPower Change Action Fund
National Iranian American Council Action
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
United Chinese Americans
United Macedonian Diaspora
United We Dream
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Expose the lawmakers supporting Trump’s ban. The current Republican-led Congress has blocked a vote to repeal the Muslim Ban.
- 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.
- Organize to elect a new Congress this November that will vote to overturn the ban.
- Pass legislation to repeal the ban once and for all.
Have Questions on the Decision?
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
We are confronting this ban from every angle:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.