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.

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