NIAC Action Statement on Delay to NO BAN Vote

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, March 12, 2020
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | 

Jamal Abdi, Executive Director of NIAC Action, issued the following statement on the decision to delay the vote on the NO BAN Act:

“We are disappointed that the vote on the NO BAN Act has been delayed. We understand the need to pass urgent legislation to address the Coronavirus crisis and hope Speaker Pelosi and Leader Hoyer understand that the Muslim Ban is a crisis that threatens the fabric of our country and from which many American families have deserved relief for over three years. We urge Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer to uphold their commitment to repeal Trump’s Muslim Ban and publicly commit to vote on the NO BAN Act as soon as Congress returns to legislative business. 

“The Muslim Ban is a racist policy the President implemented to address an imaginary crisis for political purposes. National origin or religious affiliation doesn’t pose a threat, but global pandemics do. Now that this administration is dealing with a real crisis that may necessitate temporary restrictions on travel, the reckless frivolity of the Muslim Ban and the inability of our institutions to check the executive is on full dangerous display. Trump’s racist Muslim ban – and other orders abusing Presidential immigration authorities – undermine public confidence in our institutions and divert resources from addressing real problems and its past time for Congress to step in. It is vital that the House halt discriminatory orders based on bigotry, while maintaining authorities to respond to real public health emergencies like the Coronavirus, by passing the NO BAN Act.”

“We call on Speaker Pelosi, Leader Hoyer and all legislators of good conscience to uphold their commitment to pass the NO BAN Act once the House returns to session.” 

Statement on House Passage of Kaine War Powers Resolution

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, March 11, 2020
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 |

Ryan Costello, Policy Director of NIAC Action, issued the following statement on the House of Representatives passing Sen. Kaine’s resolution (S.J.Res. 68) requiring the administration to withdraw U.S. forces from hostilities with Iran in a 227-186 vote:

“Bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate have passed legislation clarifying that President Trump does not have authorization for war with Iran. This reflects the American people’s wishes, who have twice watched the President lead us to the edge of a new and disastrous war with Iran in recent months.

“While opponents of the resolution chose to spend much of their time claiming there are no hostilities with Iran and that Iran had been deterred, events in the region demonstrated the continued danger of tensions boiling to full-blown war. Yet again, U.S. and Iranian-backed forces appear to be exchanging fire in Iraq, despite the American people’s desires to avoid yet another war of choice in the Middle East. We know from experience that the administration is likely to shoot first and figure out its legal justification later. Only by returning to the nuclear deal and the negotiating table can we ensure that the threat of war is once again put on ice.

“The choice for President Trump is clear. If he truly wants to end America’s endless wars rather than start new ones, he should sign the resolution and prove his intentions to a skeptical American public and Congress. A veto would only demonstrate his desire to keep an unconstitutional war with Iran on the table.

“Senators Kaine, Durbin, Paul and Lee, along with Speaker Pelosi and key voices like Reps. Ro Khanna and Barbara Lee, deserve tremendous credit for working across the aisle to send on legislation clarifying Congress’ role in matters of war and peace after the January crisis with Iran. So too do all legislators who saw through the administration’s fearmongering and backed legislation to rein in their reckless war push, and the countless Americans and allied organizations who told President Trump loud and clear: no war with Iran.”

Meet the Husband and Wife team running to represent the Democratic Party of Orange County

Meet Iyad Afalqa and Samila Amanyraoufpoor, the husband and wife team running to represent the people of California Assembly District 74 in the Democratic Party of Orange County Central Committee!

Both Samila and Iyad are union professors whose immigrant experiences have shaped their views and involvement in politics.

Samila Amanyraoufpor is an Iranian-American professor at Cal State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) and Cal State University, Los Angeles. Having lived through the 1979 revolution and the Iran-Iraq War, she has always had a deep understanding and appreciation for politics. At the core of her activism is her commitment to strengthening civic engagement. We see that now as she is a member of the CSUDH Chapter of the California Faculty Association (CFA) and serves as the chair of their union’s Political Action Committee (PAC).

Iyad Afalqa, a Palestinian-American, is also a professor at CSUDH, specializing in Health Care Management, Policy and Strategic Management. Iyad views politics as an opportunity to make an impact in his community. Born in Jerusalem, Iyad spent his formative years living in the West Bank under Israeli occupation, an experience that shaped his political outlook.

Iyad is currently serving his first term as the Co-President of CSUDH Chapter of the CFA and comes with years of experience within the Democratic party, having served within the ranks of the Democratic Party in WI, NV and CA in different capacities; as 2016 DNC elected Delegate and a 2016 U.S. Presidential Campaign Healthcare Advisor; as a4th-term CADEM E-Board; Delegate; as a Chair of a Statewide Caucus; and in an Affirmative Action Committee. Currently, he is the President of the California Democratic Council, which represents 500+ Clubs state-wide.

When we asked Samila and Iyad why they are running, they pointed to the need for change from within the local party. Some of these seats have been held by the same people for the last four decades. And currently, over 80% of the Central Committee does not reflect the racial diversity of Orange County. Considering the demographic shift in the county over that time, they believe that now is the opportunity to elect a new generation of diverse community leaders that reflect the county itself.

Over the years, Samila and Iyad have also taken actions to stand up for the Iranian-American community. In 2015, they joined NIAC’s grassroots efforts to ensure the U.S.-Iran Nuclear Deal withstood Congressional review, focusing on lobbying now-former Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. More recently, they have held over a dozen meetings with elected officials to advocate against the Muslim ban.

Progressive values are what drive these candidates. Their priorities include rent control, immigration reform such as abolishing ICE, Medicare for All, and the Green New Deal. Ultimately, they believe in holding elected officials accountable and people powered campaigns that are devoid of corporate, developer, or police union money.

If you live in CA Assembly District 74 and want to vote for Samila and Iyad, you can find their race on your primary ballot under “Democratic County Central Committee”. You must be a registered Democrat to find this race on your ballot. If you are not registered with the Democratic Party, you can change your party affiliation by re-registering to vote at the polls on election day. The California primaries will be held on March 3. Polls will be open from 7 AM to 8 PM.

NIAC Action Commends Senate on Passage of War Powers Resolution

Ryan Costello, Policy Director for NIAC Action, issued the following statement on the Senate’s passage of the Kaine resolution S.J.Res. 68 guarding against an unauthorized war with Iran in a 55-45 vote:

“President Trump does not have authorization for an Iran war. Sen. Tim Kaine deserves tremendous credit for working across the aisle to clarify that fact today by passing a bipartisan resolution ruling out an unauthorized Iran war. All Senators who supported the resolution and voted against poison pill amendments from those eager to start a war with Iran should be commended. 

“We are concerned by some of the language that was inserted into the resolution today. However, the fundamental message of the resolution – that the President does not have authorization for an Iran war – is clear. Congress has been clear and consistent on that score since last summer when bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate first supported amendments ruling out an unauthorized war with Iran. It is particularly meaningful that both chambers of Congress acted once again in the wake of the President taking us to the brink of war in January following the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. 

“We urge the Trump administration to recognize that in order to go to war with Iran, they would need to make a convincing case to Congress and the American people. Rather, the administration has lied about its war authorizations and sought to trigger a war through rash and unlawful escalation in the Middle East.

“The work for Congress is not over. We urge the House of Representatives to pass the Kaine resolution and send it on to the President’s desk. Additionally, the Senate should consider and pass the strong Iran war powers legislation passed by the House in recent weeks. The American people do not want a new front in the forever war with Iran. It is the duty of Congress to reflect the aspirations of the American people and protect its Constitutional authorities from being trampled by the President.”

NIAC Action Applauds House Judiciary Passage of Muslim Ban Repeal

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

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

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

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

Halt Washington’s Sanctions Addiction: Support Omar’s Sanctions Oversight Bill

We know the true impact of sanctions – many of us hear from our friends and family who are struggling as a direct result of the sanctions. Food and life-saving medicine are increasingly difficult to come by. The Trump administration has abused the use of sanctions, using them as a tool to strangle the Iranian people and undermine any path to diplomacy. But Congress can step in and put a check to these abuses. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has introduced the “Congressional Oversight of Sanctions Act,” mandating greater Congressional oversight to sanctions to protect against harm to civilian populations.

Take action today to ask your representative to support the “Congressional Oversight of Sanctions Act”!


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

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


Since January 27, 2017, when President Trump made good on his campaign promise to impose a Muslim ban, tens of thousands of lives have been thrown into chaos. Since that time, the Iranian-American community and NIAC Action have joined with allies across the nation to fight against the Trump administration’s blatantly discriminatory and unjust ban that has targeted Iranian nationals and deeply impacted countless Iranian Americans:

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

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

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

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

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

Access to Counsel Act

The Access to Counsel Act is a straight-forward bill that ensures Americans, green card holders and foreign nationals with valid visas who are held for secondary questioning for more than one hour are given access to legal counsel.

This issue has become especially pertinent to the Iranian-American community over the last several months. Since August 2019, dozens of Iranians students have been deported upon arrival in the United States. Many of those deported were unable to call an attorney or their universities, depriving them of advice as they were interrogated and eventually deported. In one case, a border patrol officer even refused to allow a student to call her university by claiming the authoritarian Iranian government would not allow her to make such a call. Similarly, in early January, hundreds of Iranian Americans were detained for hours based on their national heritage following a discriminatory order issued by the Seattle Field Office. Passage of the Access to Counsel Act would have helped guard against these cases and protect the rights of Americans.

In light of the continued concerning threats to civil liberties targeting individuals of Iranian heritage, we urge the committee to pass the bill as written and ensure that access to counsel be made available to both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa holders detained for secondary questioning. 

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

Recommended Sources

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

NIAC Action Joins 40+ NGOs in Letter Urging Senators to Vote “Yes” on Kaine War Powers Resolution

February 11, 2020

Dear Senators,

We are a diverse group of national organizations focused on strengthening diplomacy, safeguarding the rule of law, protecting refugees, and promoting human rights and public welfare, and together we represent millions of people and communities across the United States.

We write to urge you to vote “YES” on the war powers resolution sponsored by Senator Tim Kaine (S.J.Res.68) to terminate the unauthorized use of U.S. Armed Forces from hostilities against Iran or any part of its government unless explicitly authorized by a declaration of war or specific authorization for use of military force against Iran.

Last month, the House passed its own version of an Iran war powers resolution, as well as additional measures to rein in unilateral action by President Trump for war with Iran and further safeguard the constitutional separation of powers. We urge the Senate to swiftly follow suit and pass legislation that will then be sent back to the House and to Trump’s desk for signature.

The United States has moved to the brink of a major regional war with Iran twice in the last year. Concerningly, the administration has consistently stated that it has the authorization for war with Iran even though Congress has never authorized such action, angering both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. Moreover, deep concerns persist regarding the administration’s treatment of intelligence concerning alleged threats from Iran, which has undermined public trust.

By passing S.J.Res.68, the Senate can take an urgent and critical step in uniting with the House in reasserting Congress’s constitutional role in matters of war and peace and reflecting the aspirations of a pro-diplomacy public who unequivocally oppose another catastrophic war of choice.


About Face: Veterans Against the War
Beyond the Bomb
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for International Policy
Common Defense
Council for a Livable World
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Defending Rights & Dissent
Demand Progress
Foreign Policy for America
Franciscan Action Network
Freedom Forward Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ Government
Information Watch
Institute for Policy Studies
New Internationalism Project
J Street
Just Foreign Policy
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
NIAC Action
Peace Action
Peace Corps Iran Association
Peace Direct
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Project South
Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans
Rachel Carson Council
Rethinking Foreign Policy, Inc.
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
Tri-Valley CAREs, Livermore, CA
Truman National Security Project
Union of Concerned Scientists
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
United for Peace and Justice
Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility
Win Without War
Women’s Action for New Directions
World BEYOND War

Call Congress to End the Muslim Ban

NIAC Action and our coalition partners have been working tirelessly to pass the NO BAN Act, which would repeal the Muslim ban and prevent future unjust bans. Now we’re finally getting movement on the bill. The House of Representatives will be voting on the NO BAN Act some time during the week of March 9. This is a major milestone on our campaign to end the Muslim ban once and for all. Call your representative today to ask them to pass the NO BAN Act!

Contact your representative by calling 1-844-ACT-NIAC and ask the operator for your House Representative.
Find your House representative >>

Here’s a sample script:
“My name is XX and I am a constituent from YYtown and a member of NIAC Action. I’m calling to ask Representative XX to support the NO BAN Act. I’m concerned about Trump’s Muslim ban because [insert personal reason/story].

Can I count on Representative XX to vote yes on the NO BAN Act when it comes to a vote this week?” 

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

View as PDF

Key Takeaways:

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

Iranian Americans Being Detained at the Border

What We Know

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

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

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

Blaine Port of Entry

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

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

Additional Reports of Screenings Based on National Heritage

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

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

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

Impact on the Iranian-American community

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

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

CBP Response

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

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

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

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

What We Don’t Know

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

Iranian Student Deportations

What We Know

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

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

Fall Semester Revocations and Deportations

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

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

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

Spring Semester – December to Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

What We Don’t Know

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

What Congress Should Do

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

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

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

2020 Democrats: Where do the Presidential candidates stand?

NIAC Action has urged all 2020 Presidential candidates to make two key commitments: to return the U.S. into compliance with the Iran nuclear agreement and to repeal the Muslim Ban. 

President Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear accord and inhumane sanctions have undermined U.S. credibility, made America and the world less safe, and brought us to the brink of war. Returning to the international agreement without preconditions is the only sensible way for the United States to reverse the damage, restore Iran’s compliance with far-reaching nuclear concessions and reestablish diplomatic opportunities squandered by President Trump’s dangerous escalations.

President Trump’s Muslim Ban, imposed in his first week in office and still in effect after court-ordered revisions, continues to separate Iranian-American families and institutionalize discrimination against our community. The next president should make it a top priority to reverse this discriminatory, un-American policy on their first day in office in order to undo its continued harm. 

There are many other issues important to the Iranian-American community and pro-peace allies that NIAC Action would like to see Presidential contenders weigh in on, some of which we have directly encouraged the campaigns to comment on. In the tracker, we include some of the top tweets from candidates of interest to our community, including tweets condemning Iran’s brutal November crackdown on protesters; warnings against a march to war; comments on the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani; condemnations of President Trump’s outrageous threat to target Iranian cultural sites; and tweets on deportations of Iranian students and harassment of Iranian Americans at the border.

Joe Biden Mike Bloomberg Pete Buttigieg Tulsi Gabbard Amy Klobuchar Bernie Sanders Tom Steyer Elizabeth WarRen Andrew Yang


Vice President Joe Biden

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Vice President Biden has announced that if Tehran returns to compliance with the nuclear deal, he would do so as well while working to strengthen and extend it. He has also noted that this would enable him to more effectively push back against Iran’s “destabilizing activities.”

  • Foreign Policy Speech on July 11, 2019: “The historic Iran Nuclear Deal we negotiated blocked Iran from gaining nuclear weapons with inspectors on the ground, international inspectors confirming that the agreement was being kept. Yet Trump cast it aside, prompting Iran to restart its nuclear program and become more provocative, and raising the risk of another disastrous war in the region. If Tehran returns to compliance with the deal, I would rejoin the agreement and work with our allies to strengthen and extend it while more effectively pushing back against Iran’s destabilizing activities which under the agreement we are allowed to do and we had partners to do with us.”
  • Foreign Affairs article on January 23, 2020: “The historic Iran nuclear deal that the Obama-Biden administration negotiated blocked Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Yet Trump rashly cast the deal aside, prompting Iran to restart its nuclear program and become more provocative, raising the risk of another disastrous war in the region. I’m under no illusions about the Iranian regime, which has engaged in destabilizing behavior across the Middle East, brutally cracked down on protesters at home, and unjustly detained Americans. But there is a smart way to counter the threat that Iran poses to our interests and a self-defeating way—and Trump has chosen the latter. The recent killing of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, removed a dangerous actor but also raised the prospect of an ever-escalating cycle of violence in the region, and it has prompted Tehran to jettison the nuclear limits established under the nuclear deal. Tehran must return to strict compliance with the deal. If it does so, I would rejoin the agreement and use our renewed commitment to diplomacy to work with our allies to strengthen and extend it, while more effectively pushing back against Iran’s other destabilizing activities.”

✅✅ Vice President Biden’s campaign told NIAC Action staff that he would rescind the ban on Day 1 of his Presidency. Biden also has said that the Muslim Ban “hurts our economy, betrays our values, and can serve as a powerful terrorist recruiting tool.”

  • Vice President Biden’s immigration plan released on Dec. 11, 2019: He states that he will “Rescind the un-American travel and refugee bans, also referred to as ‘Muslim bans.’ The Trump Administration’s anti-Muslim bias hurts our economy, betrays our values, and can serve as a powerful terrorist recruiting tool. Prohibiting Muslims from entering the country is morally wrong, and there is no intelligence or evidence that suggests it makes our nation more secure. It is yet another abuse of power by the Trump Administration designed to target primarily black and brown immigrants. Biden will immediately rescind the ‘Muslim bans.’”
  • Facebook post on June 26, 2019: “One year ago, the Supreme Court upheld Trump’s Muslim ban—one of this administration’s most egregious attacks on our core values. Wielding the politics of fear and intolerance by slandering entire religious communities as complicit in terrorism is wrong, and it’s not who we are.”

  • Jan 2, 2020: “No American will mourn Qassem Soleimani’s passing. He deserted to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops and thousands of innocents throughout the region…None of that negates the fact that this is a hugely escalatory move in an already dangerous region…”
  • Jan. 10, 2020: “Donald Trump brought us dangerously close to starting a new war with Iran without any semblance of a plan. This moment requires a leader who will be ready on day one to pick up the pieces and repair the damage Trump has caused.”
  • Nov. 23, 2019: “Our hearts go out to the families of Iranian protesters who were killed this past week. Iranians, like people everywhere, have a right to protest peacefully without being brutally attacked by their own government and having the internet shut down for days. The world is watching.”


Representative Tulsi Gabbard

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Rep. Gabbard’s campaign affirmed with NIAC Action that she has committed to returning to the nuclear accord. At the June 26th debate, she said “We need to get back into the Iran nuclear agreement, and we need to negotiate how we can improve it.”

  • Gabbard’s campaign told NIAC Action: “Despite its limitations, the Iran deal successfully rolled back Iran’s nuclear program and we must restore it. Diplomacy is the best way to achieve lasting solutions to security crises. We must refrain from aggressive actions that could endanger the lives of U.S. troops, undermine the nuclear deal and put us on the path to war.”
  • During the June 26th, 2019 debate, Tulsi Gabbard was one of nine candidates who raised their hand in response to the question “Who as president would sign on to the 2015 nuclear deal as it was originally negotiated?”
  • During the same debate, she said: “Let’s deal with the situation where we are, where this president and his chickenhawk cabinet have led us to the brink of war with Iran. I served in the war in Iraq at the height of the war in 2005, a war that took over 4,000 of my brothers and sisters in uniforms’ lives. The American people need to understand that this war with Iran would be far more devastating, far more costly than anything that we ever saw in Iraq. It would take many more lives. It would exacerbate the refugee crisis. And it wouldn’t be just contained within Iran. This would turn into a regional war. This is why it’s so important that every one of us, every single American, stand up and say no war with Iran. We need to get back into the Iran nuclear agreement, and we need to negotiate how we can improve it. It was an imperfect deal. There are issues, like their missile development, that needs to be addressed. We can do both simultaneously to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and preventing us from going to war.”

Congresswoman Gabbard told NIAC Action that she would end the ban as President. Additionally, while in Congress, she cosponsored the NO BAN Act, which if it became law, would repeal the Ban along with similar discriminatory orders.

  • The Gabbard campaign provided NIAC Action with the following quote: “Ever since President Trump put this ban in place, I’ve stood in strong opposition to it. And as President, I would lift the ban that is hurting and harming so many people, and so many families both here and in other countries around the world. Trump’s “travel ban” is supposedly for our national security. However it doesn’t do anything to make us safer because it’s not based on a legitimate threat analysis – it is instead completely arbitrary and useless.
  • The campaign continued: “True to our history and values as a nation, we have served as a place of refuge to the most vulnerable in the world. We should not be putting in place a blanket ban of refugees, especially when we have actively been fueling the counterproductive regime change wars that have caused them to flee their homes in the first place. These people would much rather stay in their homes and live in peace. That’s why we must address the cause of this refugee crisis and end the destructive U.S. policy of counterproductive regime-change wars, as we’ve seen most recently in Iraq, Libya, and now in Syria.”
  • Rep. Gabbard tweeted the following on the Muslim Ban’s anniversary on Jan. 26, 2018: Trump’s “travel ban” is supposedly for our national security. However it doesn’t do anything to make us safer because it’s not based on a legitimate threat analysis – it is instead completely arbitrary and useless.

  • Jan. 3, 2020: “We do not seek regime change” Trump declares as he escalates his regime change war against Iran. Neocons like Graham/Bolton are cheering. To all who voted for Trump bc of his antiwar rhetoric, it’s time to realize he lied to u. Stand with me against Trump’s Iran War! #TrumpsWar
  • Jan. 7, 2020: #IranAttacks on U.S. troops today brought back a flood of memories from my 2005 deployment at the height of Iraq war. Constant rocket attacks. A daily reminder of the terrible cost of war. Unimaginable suffering awaits if this escalation continues. #NoWarWithlran #IranvsUS
  • Jan. 9, 2020: Trump’s war with Iran is undermining our national security and putting all Americans in greater danger. Iran is closer now to a nuclear weapon than ever before. And it’s opening the door to resurgence of ISIS/al-Qaeda. #NoWarWithIran #StandWithTulsi
  • Jan. 12, 2020: Pompeo: The attack was imminent, but “we didn’t know when and we didn’t know where.” Well, if you don’t know when and if you don’t know where, that is not “imminent”. #StandWithTulsi #NoWarWithIran
  • Jan. 11, 2020: My heartfelt condolences & love to the families of victims of plane “crash” in Iran. One of the great tragedies of war are unintended consequences & so-called “collateral damage.” Once hostilities begin things quickly get out of control & no one knows where it may end #NoIranWar


Senator Bernie Sanders

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Sen. Sanders has unequivocally committed to returning to the nuclear accord, saying “I would re-enter the agreement on day one of my presidency and then work with the P5+1 and Iran to build upon it.”

  • In an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations: “Yes. The agreement achieved by the US, Europe, Russia and China with Iran is one of the strongest anti-nuclear agreements ever negotiated. It prevented a war and blocked Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon. I would re-enter the agreement on day one of my presidency and then work with the P5+1 and Iran to build upon it with additional measures to further block any path to a nuclear weapon, restrain Iran’s offensive actions in the region and forge a new strategic balance in the Middle East.
  • A spokesperson for Sen. Sanders told Al-Monitor: “As president, Sen. Sanders would rejoin the JCPOA and would also be prepared to talk to Iran on a range of other issues, which is what Trump should’ve done instead of simply walking away. Rejoining the JCPOA would mean meeting the United States’ commitments under the agreement, and that includes sanctions relief.”

✅✅ In his response to a NIAC Action inquiry, Senator Sanders pledged to repeal the Ban on day one of his presidency and went on to say that “We are going to stand together in the struggle for justice and human rights, and we are going to end everything Trump has done to demonize Muslims.” He also commits to working with Congress to pass the NO BAN Act to guard against future discriminatory orders.

  • The Sanders campaign told NIAC Action that Sanders pledged to repeal Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban, Presidential Proclamation 9645) on Day One of his presidency.
  • The statment went on to say, “We must speak out when we have a president and an administration who believe that “Islam hates us.” We must speak out at hate crimes and violence targeted at the Muslim community – and call it what it is – domestic terrorism. We are not going to allow Trump to divide us up. We are going to stand together in the struggle for justice and human rights, and we are going to end everything Trump has done to demonize Muslims. We will repeal President Trump’s racist and disgusting Muslim Ban on Day One of my presidency. And we will work with Congress to codify limitations on the President’s ability to restrict or suspend the entry of people or classes of people into the United States by passing the National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants (NO BAN) Act.
  • Sen. Sander’s immigration plan released on Nov. 7, 2019: “I would overturn President Trump’s racist and disgusting Muslim ban” and “work with Congress to codify limitations on the President’s ability to restrict or suspend the entry of people or classes of people into the United States by passing the National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants (NO BAN) Act.”
  • Statement on Supreme Court ruling on June 26, 2018: “The Supreme Court today sided with fear, racism and xenophobia and against the American ideals of religious freedom and tolerance. The Trump administration’s travel ban was never about keeping America safe. We need only look at Trump’s own words to understand that this has always been a racist and anti-Islamic attempt to ban Muslims from entering this country. America loses when we become divided by religion, race, national origin or sexual orientation. We are stronger when we come together.”

  • Nov. 19, 2019: All people have the right to protest for a better future. I call on the Iranian government to end the internet blackout and stop violence against demonstrators.
  • Jan. 13, 2020: All people have the right to protest without fear of violence. I call upon the Iranian government to respect that right. The Iranian people’s future is theirs to determine, and I stand with all who seek a future of peace, dignity, and equality.
  • Jan. 6, 2020: After 16 years of war in Iraq, trillions of dollars, the deaths of 4,500 U.S. troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the Iraqi government is now trying to throw us out of their country. All that suffering, all that death, all that huge expenditure of money, for what?…I believe the House and the Senate must act quickly to advance legislation that reasserts Congress’s constitutional authority over war. We must prohibit any funding for offensive military force in or against Iran without authorization.
  • June 14, 2019: The Gulf of Oman incident must not be used as a pretext for war with Iran. War would be an unmitigated disaster for the United States, Iran, the region, and the world. A unilateral U.S. attack on Iran would be illegal and unconstitutional.
  • May 24, 2019: I was right about Vietnam. I was right about Iraq. I will do everything in my power to prevent a war with Iran. I apologize to no one.


Senator Elizabeth Warren

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Sen. Warren has consistently committed to returning to the nuclear deal and bringing Iran back into compliance as well.

  • In an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations on July 30, 2019, Sen. Warren said: “If Iran returns to compliance with its obligations under the nuclear deal, the United States should return as well. If Iran is not in compliance, I will pursue strong and principled diplomacy in concert with our allies to bring both the United States and Iran back into the deal.
  • During the June 26th, 2019 debate, Warren was one of nine candidates who raised their hand in response to the question, “Who as president would sign on to the 2015 nuclear deal as it was originally negotiated?” Warren also tweeted that night, “As president, I would make sure our country gets back on the 2015 Iran Deal. We can’t afford another forever war, and I’m fighting to stop Donald Trump from dragging us into another one. #DemDebate.”

Note: Sen. Warren appears to have been the first Presidential contender to call for a return to the JCPOA, suggesting the President should do so in a committee hearing in December 2018.

✅✅ Senator Warren told us she would repeal the Muslim Ban on day one of her presidency. She also noted on the day after the Ban was instituted that “I wish I was exaggerating or that this was some sort of game, but a ban that issues religious tests and keeps refugees and immigrants from entering our country is illegal. It is unconstitutional, it is immoral, and it must be overturned.”

  • The Warren campaign told NIAC Action that Sen. Warren pledged to repeal Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban, Presidential Proclamation 9645) on Day One of her presidency.
  • Medium post on July 11, 2019: “But while Trump may have taken the system to its most punitive extreme, his racist policies build on a broken immigration system and an enforcement infrastructure already primed for abuse…I saw it in the tears of families as they waited for their loved ones at Logan Airport in Boston on the night Trump announced his Muslim Ban.” In the same post, which outlined her entire immigration policy, she went on to say that “I’ll reverse Trump’s bigoted Muslim Ban on my first day in office.”
  • Speech on Senate Floor on January 28, 2017: “On Friday Night, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that strikes at the very heart of our democracy. I wish I was exaggerating or that this was some sort of game, but a ban that issues religious tests and keep refugees and immigrants from entering our country is illegal. It is unconstitutional, it is immoral, and it must be overturned.”

  • Jan. 20, 2020: Shahab Dehghani is an Iranian student with a valid F1 visa, returning to finish his education. CBP already held him overnight. His deportation must be halted, and we must fight the Trump administration’s xenophobic policies.
  • June 21, 2019: It’s not enough to say that we don’t want conflict—we must make one less likely. Congress must make clear that war with Iran is not authorized. We should work with our allies to deescalate tensions and create space for diplomacy. We can’t afford another forever war.
  • Nov. 22, 2019: Iranians have taken to the streets to protest corruption and authoritarianism. This struggle must ultimately be fought and won by the people of Iran, but we support their demand for dignity, freedom to connect to the outside world, and right to peacefully demonstrate.
  • Jan. 2, 2020: Soleimani was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans. But this reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict. Our priority must be to avoid another costly war.
  • Jan. 3, 2020: We’re on the brink of yet another war in the Middle East—one that would be devastating in terms of lives lost and resources wasted. We’re not here by accident. We’re here because a reckless president, his allies, and his administration have spent years pushing us here. Donald Trump ripped up an Iran nuclear deal that was working. He’s repeatedly escalated tensions. Now he’s assassinated a senior foreign military official. He’s been marching toward war with Iran since his first days in office—but the American people won’t stand for it.
  • Jan. 13, 2020: I support the right of the people of Iran to peacefully protest against their corrupt government. But this isn’t about us. We should support them, including by lifting the Muslim Ban—not try to engineer regime change or recklessly risk a war.


Mayor Mike Bloomberg

Mayor Bloomberg’s staff told NIAC Action that he would return to compliance with the JCPOA without preconditions. After rejoining, Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign says he will seek to address “other inadequacies in the deal” in order to make it sustainable:

  • In response to NIAC Action’s question on whether Mayor Bloomberg would return to the JCPOA without preconditions, the Mayor’s staff said: “Yes. Mike was initially against the Iran deal but thinks it was a mistake for President Trump to unilaterally walk away from it. While the agreement was not perfect — it did not address Iran’s ballistic-missile program, and it gave the regime political cover to step up its aggression in the region — the U.S. had an obligation to keep its word once the agreement was in place. The U.S. withdrawal has allowed Iran to abandon its own obligations under the deal, and has left the world with few tools to stop it. The first thing to do is reestablish the coalition that realized the danger of Iran marching toward a nuclear weapon. Collective pressure will be needed to change Iran’s behavior. This should be the starting point for the use of diplomacy. We should also be prepared to employ the leverage that sanctions have provided.”
  • “Next, Iran must come back into compliance with the JCPOA requirements. That will require addressing the advances it is likely to make between now and next year—advances that could shrink its breakout time. After rejoining, in order for any new arrangement to be sustainable, we must also be ready to address other inadequacies in the deal, which include the need to extend fast-approaching sunset clauses, curtail Iran’s ballistic missiles, end its destabilizing regional activities and institute more intrusive international monitoring of Iranian facilities.”

NIAC Action asked Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign whether he would rescind the Muslim ban and if he would commit to doing so on his first day as President. In response, the Bloomberg campaign told us that while the Mayor is not making any “first day” pledges on any policy, “Rest assured that there is no question Mike would reverse the policy swiftly.”:

  • Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign staff also told NIAC Action: “President Trump’s proclamation is wrong on multiple levels. It doesn’t make the U.S. safer. It is an assault on our values and degrades our moral authority in the world. It undermines our relationships with friends and allies, and could hinder valuable cooperation on counterterrorism and other issues. It makes us a less attractive destination for immigrants from countries who aren’t on the list—and thus undercuts our competitive advantage in attracting the world’s best and brightest. It is precisely the kind of wrong-headed, un-American administration policy that Mike will undo as one of his first acts once in office.”
  • On January 27th, 2020, Mayor Bloomberg tweeted: “Three years ago Trump ordered a travel ban on 7 Muslim-majority countries, kickstarting a divisive, incendiary presidency that has made Muslims and other communities feel unwelcome. What Trump doesn’t understand is that diversity is America’s great strength and always will be.”

  • Jan 3, 2020: “Qassem Soleimani was a murderer with the blood of Americans on his hands. Without more information, we can only hope that the president has carefully thought through the national security implications of this attack for our country and the grave risks involved. But given his track record and his history of making reckless and impulsive decisions that undermine U.S. strategic and weaken our allies there is every reason to be deeply concerned.



Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Mayor Buttigieg has committed to returning to the nuclear accord, stating “I will rejoin our international partners and recommit the United States to the Iran nuclear deal.” He has also supported a “parallel policy of confronting Iran’s support for terrorism and abysmal human rights record.”

  • The Daily Show on April 19, 2019: “Yes, I think the Iran deal is something that we should be party to and should strengthen. We didn’t do it as a favor to Iran, we did it to reduce a nuclear threat and it’s still a good policy.”
  • Foreign Policy Speech on June 11, 2019:I will rejoin our international partners and recommit the United States to the Iran nuclear deal. Whatever its imperfections, this was perhaps as close to a true “art of the deal” as it gets. As even this Administration repeatedly certified, it was preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It has helped constrain the military threat that Iran poses to Israel and Europe without leading us down a path to another Middle Eastern war. This agreement was concluded not to do Iran a favor, but because it is in our national security interest—just as a parallel policy of confronting Iran’s support for terrorism and abysmal human rights record reflects our values and security interests.”

When Mayor Buttigieg was asked if he would lift the Muslim Ban early in his presidency, he answered: “of course, the Muslim ban is something that really cuts against our values and does nothing to make us safer.” He has also stated that the Muslim Ban has “distanced America from the world, undermined our State Department, harmed immigrants and visa applicants, and damaged our global credibility.”

  • When asked by NIAC Action about whether he would repeal the ban on Day 1, the Buttigieg campaign pointed us to this interview with The Intercept:

    Reporter: And just to be clear if you’re elected president in 2020, you come to office in January 2021, would you make lifting the Muslim ban an early priority of your presidency?

    Mayor Buttigeg: “Of course, the Muslim ban is something that really cuts against our values and does nothing to make us safer. Look, I take counterterrorism and security very personally and very seriously as somebody who was in the military as an officer working on these issues and I could tell you that a blanket ban on people of a certain faith or a, you know, the fig leaf over that isn’t really you know, targeting certain countries in a way that isn’t really any better, is not making us safer and it’s also undercutting the very sense of American moral authority that we are trying or at least hoping to protect.”

  • Mayor Buttigieg’s immigration platform on December 22, 2019: “The Trump administration’s policies—including the Muslim ban, budget cuts, and the public charge rule—have distanced America from the world, undermined our State Department, harmed immigrants and visa applicants, and damaged our global credibility.” He goes on to say that he would “end the Muslim Ban. Pete will immediately end this ban, which is anathema to our values as Americans.”

  • Nov. 22, 2019: I applaud the bravery of the Iranian protesters and I stand with them as they once again rise up to demand change. The Iranian government must take action to improve the lives of its citizens, rather than resorting to violence and censorship to repress protests.
  • Jan. 5, 2020: We still don’t know much about the president’s decision-making on Suleimani. But we do know that military efforts to defeat ISIS are now on hold. We know that Iraq’s parliament voted to expel U.S. troops. We know that our embassy in Iraq remains under fire. We are not safer.
  • Jan. 7, 2020: Attacking cultural monuments in Iran would be a war crime under international laws. We are a nation of laws. We will act to keep America safe, not destroy cultural sites like the Taliban and ISIS have done. And my administration’s orders will not put our troops in legal jeopardy.
  • Jan. 10, 2020: When service members are deploying into harm’s way, the president should be prepared to make a case for why they need to be there, and Congress should have the courage to cast a vote on it. It’s their duty



Senator Amy Klobuchar

Sen. Klobuchar consistently voices her support for returning to the nuclear accord, along with the Paris Climate Accord. However, at times, Sen. Klobuchar has intimated that there may be preconditions on reentry beyond Iran’s return to compliance, including when she said “I would have worked to get longer sunset periods, and that’s something we could negotiate, to get back in the deal.” NIAC Action is seeking clarification from Klobuchar’s campaign regarding her commitment to reenter the agreement.

  • When asked by the New York Times on whether she would re-enter the deal without preconditions, Sen. Klobchar stated “Senator Klobuchar has made one of her major foreign policy priorities returning to the Iran nuclear agreement while working with the other parties, the U.N. and the I.A.E.A. to strengthen the terms and conditions. As an example, she would push to extend the sunset provisions for caps on Iran’s enrichment levels and capabilities.”
  • During the June 26th, 2019 debate, Amy Klobuchar was one of nine candidates who raised their hand in response to the question “Who as president would sign on to the 2015 nuclear deal as it was originally negotiated?” During the same debate, she said “It was imperfect, but it was a good deal for that moment. I would have worked to get longer sunset periods, and that’s something we could negotiate, to get back in the deal. But the point is, Donald Trump told us when he got out of it that he was going to give us a better deal. Those were his words. And now we are a month away from the Iranians, who claim now that they’re going blow the caps on enriching uranium. And the Iranians have told us this. And so that’s where we are now. He has made us less safe than we were when he became president. So what I would do is negotiate us back into that agreement, is stand with our allies, and not give unlimited leverage to China and Russia, which is what he has done.”
  • During the January 14, 2020 debate, Klobuchar stated: “We just found out today that four Republicans are joining Democrats to go to (President Trump) and say, “You must have an authorization of military force if you’re going to go to war with Iran.” That is so important because we have a situation where he got us out of the Iranian nuclear agreement, something I worked for a significant period of time. As President, I will get us back into that agreement. I will take an oath to protect and defend our constitution and I will mean it.”

Senator Klobuchar’s has not committed to repealing the Muslim Ban on the campaign trail, but highlighted after the first ban that “it is irresponsible and unconscionable to exclude entire populations from seeking refuge here, simply because of where they come from or what religion they practice.” She has also co-sponsored the NO BAN Act, which would repeal the Ban and similar discriminatory orders if signed into law.

  • Senator Klobuchar statement on Jan. 28, 2017: “I have long advocated for thorough vetting and have supported strong national security measures, but it is irresponsible and unconscionable to exclude entire populations from seeking refuge here, simply because of where they come from or what religion they practice. The President’s executive order is already having devastating consequences, as legal residents with green cards, refugees fleeing violence, and travelers with visas are being denied entry to the United States and some are being detained in airports. Together, lawmakers and the American people must make it clear to the President that separating families and punishing those who followed the rules is not acceptable.”
  • She continued, saying “Refugees strengthen our communities. In Minnesota, we are proud to have the largest Somali, Liberian and Oromo populations in the U.S., as well as the second largest Hmong population. They are police officers and small business owners, students and teachers. They have often fled desperate and dangerous situations, and as legal workers, have been an important part of our economy and society. We cannot turn our back on them.

  • Jan. 7, 2020: As we await the casualty assessment from tonight’s attacks, it is vital that we take this moment to consider any response. A full-blown war with Iran is not in the national security interest of the U.S. or allies in the region.
  • Jan. 9, 2020: The House vote to require the President to come to Congress to get any authorization for military action against Iran is an important step towards Congress upholding its Constitutional duties. We must use this moment to de-escalate instead of ramping up the rhetoric towards war.
  • Jan. 12, 2020: People should have the right to peacefully protest in any country, including Iran.



Tom Steyer

Steyer public comments appear to support returning to the nuclear deal without preconditions. In conversations with NIAC Action, he has also affirmed that he would return to the deal without preconditions.

  • In an Interview with The New York Times, Steyer supported reentering the Iran nuclear deal without preconditions and said “Mr. Trump has blundered his way into a potentially long-lasting conflict with Iran. Since he announced the United States’ withdrawal from the J.C.P.O.A., Iran has grown bolder. I recognize the seriousness of Iran as an adversary and the need to work with our allies to bring Iran back to the table and away from the brink of war. While the J.C.P.O.A. did not solve all problems with the Iranian regime, it did reduce the threat of a nuclear Iran. A more long-term and responsible approach to Iran would be the diplomatic route taken by the Obama administration, including re-entering the J.C.P.O.A.”
  • In an interview with Vox on January 21, 2020: “We have sanctions on, so (lifting the sanctions) would have to be the give from us. We’re in the same position now. And the question is where are they and what can be redone? In a negotiation, of course, God is in the details. But people have to think, first, that you’re a partner who can be trusted. Why negotiate with someone who goes back on their word? You can’t do it. And secondly, are you in the range of reason? You can’t negotiate with someone if they’re not in the range of reason. That’s just normal stuff.”

✅✅ Mr. Steyer’s campaign staff told us “Tom Steyer has committed to repealing the Muslim ban on day 1 of his presidency.” He has stated separately that he would use his executive authorities to “end the Muslim travel ban.” He has also noted President Trump’s policies such as the Muslim Ban are “systemically attacking immigrant communities of color.”

  • Mr. Steyer’s campaign staff told NIAC Action that “Tom Steyer has committed to repealing the Muslim ban on day 1 of his presidency.” Steyer’s campaign website says that he will use executive action to “end the Muslim travel ban.”
  • On January 24th, 2020, Steyer tweeted: “Mr. Trump’s immigration system does not reflect America’s best values. From the Muslim travel ban to the repeal of DACA to this proposal to block visas for pregnant women, he is systemically attacking immigrant communities of color.”

  • Jan 8. 2020: I’m grateful that no Americans or Iraqis were harmed in last night’s missile strikes by Iran. Let’s make one thing clear: Trump created this crisis and his remarks today demonstrate, once again, that his go at it alone strategy makes our country less safe. His unwillingness to provide a clear path to a deal with Iran and come back to the negotiation table continues to put the lives of Americans at risk and will his recklessness will encourage more instability in the region.




Andrew Yang

Mr. Yang has announced that it was a mistake to withdraw from the nuclear deal and that he would rejoin the agreement as President. However, he also said that the U.S. should “renegotiate the timelines, because the timelines now don’t make as much sense,’ potentially muddling his position.

  • Interview with WBUR, Boston’s NPR station: “I think it was a mistake that we withdrew from the agreement to try and have them tamp down their nuclear development in return for various economic considerations. I would rejoin that agreement, which is multilateral. There are other countries that are actually still in that agreement with Iran that have been waiting for us to rejoin.”

In the July 31, 2019 Democratic debate, Mr. Yang said “I would move to de-escalate tensions in Iran, because they’re responding to the fact that we pulled out of (the nuclear) agreement. And it wasn’t just us and Iran. There were many other world powers that were part of that multinational agreement. We’d have to try and reenter that agreement, renegotiate the timelines, because the timelines now don’t make as much sense. But I’ve signed a pledge to end the forever wars…I would bring the troops home, I would de-escalate tensions with Iran, and I would start investing our resources in our own communities.”

Mr. Yang has stated that he would “reverse the travel ban very early on” in his presidency, citing that it does not make us safer and instead “amplifies xenophobia.

  • Mr. Yang’s campaign platform does not address the Muslim Ban, but in an interview with the Washington Post on Oct. 21, 2019 he said: “I would reverse the travel ban very early on because restricting travel doesn’t make Americans any safer. All it does is cut us off from various people and countries, increasing mistrust. It’s counterproductive and it many ways not even designed to make us safer, but rather to amplify xenophobia.”

  • Jan. 2, 2020: War with Iran is the last thing we need and is not the will of the American people. We should be acting to deescalate tensions and protect our people in the region. I have signed a pledge to end the Forever Wars. Our Constitution says that it is the power of Congress to declare war. I would repeal the AUMF and restore the historical balance between Congress and the Executive branch concerning military action. We have been in a constant state of armed conflict for 19 years at a disastrous cost to both our people and our resources. This must end. Our Constitution says that it is the power of Congress to declare war. I would repeal the AUMF and restore the historical balance between Congress and the Executive branch concerning military action.

Candidates included in this tracker were polling at 1% or higher in 538’s aggregate polling tracker on January 28, 2020.