NIAC Statement on Introduction of NO BAN Act and Release of Muslim Ban Data

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, April 10, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mana@niacaction.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On the heels of new data revealing the widespread impact of the Trump Administration’s Muslim Ban, and as legislation to repeal the ban gained its 100th cosponsor in the House and support from every Presidential candidate in the Senate, new legislation is being introduced in both chambers of Congress today to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to prevent any future discriminatory bans. NIAC applauds Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and strongly supports the NO BAN Act (National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants Act).

In response, NIAC Action Executive Director Jamal Abdi issued the following statement:

“The introduction of the NO BAN Act presents a real opportunity for Congress to repeal the Trump administration’s reprehensible Muslim Ban—and help to prevent it from happening again by amending parts of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Democratic majority in the House and any Republicans who claim independence from President Trump have a golden opportunity to end this shameful Muslim Ban. If Congress chooses to squander this moment then they will find themselves complicit in one of the most discriminatory policies of our time. And the timing couldn’t be better. The act’s introduction comes on the heels of statistics on the Muslim Ban released by the State Department last week, which illustrated the vast impact of the ban and the sham waiver process used by the Supreme Court to uphold it.

“19,163 Iranians were rejected from securing a waiver due to alleged failure to prove that the rejection would cause ‘undue hardship’ or that approval would be in the ‘national interest.’ By contrast, only 413 secured a waiver—meaning for every 47 Iranians considered for a waiver only one is issued. Moreover, only 7 Iranian nationals considered for a waiver were rejected due to national security concerns. While the overall waiver issuance rate is advertised at 6%, the rate for Iranians—the nationality most impacted by the ban—is an abysmal low 1.6%. This more closely resembles a lottery than a genuine waiver process.”

Abdi continued:

“The Trump administration’s own statistics unequivocally prove the waiver provision is a fraud. There is a story behind every rejection—a grandparent hoping to see their grandchild for the first time, a student hoping to return to their studies and finalize their degree, or a partner hoping to reunite with their beloved. Now, these rejections are happening at consulates around the world, out of sight of U.S. cameras.

“We commend Senator Coons and Representative Chu for their commitment to repealing the Muslim Ban and preventing such discriminatory policies from ever materializing again. We also commend Senator Van Hollen for his and his colleagues’ tireless efforts to seek out data on the Muslim Ban in an effort to hold the Trump administration accountable. But now it is up to Congress to build on this new momentum and pass legislation ending the Muslim Ban once and for all.”

BREAKING: Trump Administration Forced to Turn Over Information on Muslim Ban

We have a positive update on the effort to scale back and ultimately overturn Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban. As part of the spending bill that will become law today, the Trump administration will be forced to turn over important information on the ban that will enable Congress to finally have oversight of this policy.

The Trump Administration must now report on the implementation of the sham waiver process that continues to deny spouses, sick family members, and others who are supposedly exempt from the ban. It must also explain to Congress its justification for continuing what was supposed to be a temporary policy.

This will help enable Congress to hold hearings, press the Administration to issue more waivers, and reduce the negative impact of the ban until it can be repealed.

This small victory is the culmination of efforts we coordinated last year with over fifty organizations—including the ACLU, Brennan Center, J Street, and Iranian-American organizations like PAAIA and IABA—to urge Congress to demand this information. We then worked closely with Sens. Van Hollen (D-MD) and Leahy (D-VT) to pass an amendment to turn those demands into law. While the effort was delayed over the disputes that led to the government shutdown, the amendment will become law later today. We are tremendously thankful to Sens. Van Hollen and Leahy for ensuring that these reporting requirements passed.

Even as Americans brace themselves for Trump’s pending declaration of a “national emergency” to try to build his border wall, we must also relish today’s small but significant step forward for everyone impacted by the Muslim Ban. Now, we must take the next step by passing new legislation supported by NIAC Action and over 100 organizations to hold hearings and block funding for the ban.

>> Tell Congress: Repeal the Ban

NIAC Action Statement on New Legislation to Defund and Repeal Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, January 28, 2019
CONTACT: Brett Abrams | brett@unbendablemedia.com

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) introduced legislation to defund and repeal President Trump’s Muslim travel ban. In reaction to the legislation, Jamal Abdi, President of NIAC Action, the civic action arm of the National Iranian American Council, issued the following statement:

“With a Democratic majority in the House, the vote on repealing the Muslim Ban that was blocked by Paul Ryan for two years can finally move forward. It is crucial that the House majority make its voice heard that all walls are unacceptable — including a ban now taking place in the shadows — and to act instead of allowing the ban to become the status quo.

“The Muslim ban was Trump’s top priority upon entering office. Now, ending it must be a top priority for the 116th Congress. Sen. Murphy and Rep. Chu deserve tremendous credit for continuing to champion the effort to overturn the Muslim ban, and have the profound thanks of the Iranian-American community and all impacted groups.

“Meanwhile, the House’s power to investigate and subpoena the administration can yield immediate practical impacts. At last count, less than 3% of eligible waivers are being issued. Consular officials have revealed that the waiver process is a sham intended to shield a blanket ban from scrutiny. Only the most extraordinary cases seem to get through, and often only through public pressure.

“The new Congress can force the Administration to reveal what is going on with these waivers and force them to fix it until we can repeal the ban for good. They can investigate the ‘extreme vetting’ and other measures that have managed to reduce visas from Muslim majority countries writ large, not just the ones Trump was able to ban.

“With the new Congress, we can finally turn the tide against this abomination. But only if Speaker Pelosi and Congressional Democrats make tearing down Trump’s first wall a priority. And only if, instead of suffering in silence, those of us impacted and our allies who turned out to airports to stand with us two years ago make their voices heard once again.”

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Pictures, Video: On Anniversary of Trump’s Muslim Ban, Impacted Individuals and Advocates Deliver Petitions with Over 150,000 Signatures to Congress

WASHINGTON, DC —Today, one year after the Supreme Court allowed ‘Muslim Ban 3.0’ to go into effect, individuals impacted by Trump’s policy were joined by organizations including The National Iranian American Council (NIAC), the ACLU, NILC, CAIR National, SAALT, Advancing Justice | AAJC, MPower Change, CWS Global, and Franciscan Action Network to deliver petitions signed by more than 150,000 individuals and endorsed by more than 27 organizations. The petitions, delivered to the offices of Representatives Judy Chu, Senator Murphy, Senator Van Hollen, and Senator Hirono, urge the next Congress to take immediate action to rescind the ban.

WATCH VIDEO OF THE DELIVERY HERE: https://www.facebook.com/UnitedWeDream

VIEW PHOTOS OF THE DELIVERY HERE: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1aBP0NmhqDFBX2YEsMXezd0e_qBZW7aUx?usp=sharing  

Click the link to view the petitions from Change.org, MPower Change, MoveOn, DailyKos and ACLU.

Avideh Moussavian, Legislative Director, National Immigration Law Center: “A year after the Supreme Court devastated communities across the globe by allowing a permanent version of Trump’s Muslim Ban to go forward, we are committed to repealing it and to preventing future bans like it. We’ve already seen the Trump administration abuse its authority to impose yet another ban, this time on asylum seekers. As we prepare for a new Congress, we demand that it hold this administration accountable for the Muslim ban as well as other policies — like killing DACA and Temporary Protected Status (TPS), trying to impose a wealth test on immigrant families applying for green cards  and more — which are rooted in xenophobia and a larger white supremacist agenda of exclusion.”

Jamal Abdi, President, National Iranian American Council: “Over the last year the Muslim Ban has torn apart families, separated spouses, and extinguished dreams as President Trump’s allies in Congress stayed silent. Now, with a new Congress entering office, we can finally place a check on this presidency, beginning with repealing this unjust, un-American ban on our families.”

Manar Waheed, Senior Legislative and Advocacy Counsel, ACLU: “Today marks the dark anniversary of the day that America betrayed its constitution, laws, and values and began to categorically ban Muslims. For one full year now, Muslims have been banned from coming to America—whether to attend weddings and graduations, mourn the loss of loved ones, or seek life-saving health care treatment. As with other horrific moments in our past, like the incarceration of Japanese people in internment camps or racial segregation under the notion of separate but equal, we will fight for as long as it takes until justice is achieved. History will not forget this day nor will the people of our country. “

Lakshmi Sridaran, Director of National Policy and Advocacy, SAALT: “One year ago today, our nation’s Supreme Court allowed the Muslim Ban to go into full effect, separating families and fanning the flames of violence against our communities. The new Congress must exercise leadership and ensure the Muslim Ban is rescinded by passing legislation immediately. Congress has the authority to halt this unconstitutional policy that has been in effect far too long. While legislation was introduced last year in both the House and Senate, it has been neglected. Congress can no longer allow state sanctioned hate to continue and we demand they act swiftly. South Asian Americans nationwide continue to believe that all immigrants have a place here regardless of their religion or where they were born.”

Mohammad Khan, Campaign Director, MPower Change: “The Muslim Ban was the first official policy of the Trump administration intended to keep Black and brown people out of the U.S. Since then, Congress has largely stood back and allowed the White House to plow forward with its white nationalist agenda. Only a few brave members of Congress have stood with the majority of their constituents, who oppose discriminatory policies like the Muslim Ban. With a new Congress being sworn in this coming January, it’s crucial for our representatives to take a stand and repeal the Muslim Ban—both to provide relief for the millions being impacted and to rebuke Trump’s bigoted agenda. ”

Nihad Awad, Executive Director, CAIR National: “The Muslim travel ban violates the very principles and values upon which our nation was founded, and Congress must do what the Supreme Court could not; repeal this ban once and for all. The Muslim ban denies the very humanity of those seeking to travel to or seek refuge in the United States. As a nation, we must not waste any more valuable time and immediately act to reintroduce and pass Muslim ban repeal legislation.”

The Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO, Church World Service: “The Muslim travel ban has torn families apart for two years now, while allowing President Trump to implement his cruel anti-family, anti-refugee, anti-immigrant agenda. We urge Congress to right this wrong by eliminating this policy once and for all.”

Patrick Carolan, Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network: “The principle of freedom of religion is a tradition and ideal that formed the foundation of our country. The Muslim ban goes against everything that we stand for as Franciscan Catholic Christians, and against what Jesus and Francis of Assisi taught and lived. It is morally wrong to single out one group of people based on their faith. We are weaker as a country when we let fear and lack of understanding come between us. During the 5th Crusades, St. Francis of Assisi encouraged encountering ‘the other’ by meeting with the Sultan of Egypt and calling for peace and understanding. Pope Francis used this as an example in our own time by visiting the refugee island of Lampedusa and bringing Syrian refugees to stay with him at the Vatican. We must follow their example and welcome the stranger.”

Elica Vafaie, Staff Attorney, Asian Americans Advancing Justice: “We’ve seen the devastating impact on countless families of U.S. citizens, green card-holders, students, and those with urgent medical needs since the Muslim Ban has been in effect. Although the government has said that a waiver for those families is possible, in reality the government is achieving its goal of banning Muslims. We need to restore dignity and stop this unlawful ban.”

For more information, or for interview with a NIAC spokesperson, please contact Yasmina Dardari at (407) 922-8149 or by email at yasmina@unbendablemedia.com.

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SCOTUS Approved the Muslim Ban. What now?

While we had hoped that justice and equality would triumph over hate and discrimination, we also suspected the Supreme Court, given its current makeup, would side with Trump. So we planned ahead. Our strategy is focused on terminating the ban through political organizing and legislative action.

Our Strategy Moving Forward

  1. Expose the lawmakers supporting Trump’s ban. The current Republican-led Congress has blocked a vote to repeal the Muslim Ban.
  2. Uncover the information that Trump is hiding. That is why we worked with Senator Chris Van Hollen to require Trump to turn over documents that will lay the groundwork for repeal. 
  3. Organize to elect a new Congress this November that will vote to overturn the ban.
  4. Pass legislation to repeal the ban once and for all.

Have Questions on the Decision?

If you’re wondering what yesterday’s ruling means for you, we offer some answers in our FAQ. To see our legal analysis on the decision, look here.

Want to Get Involved?

We need your support. You can donate your time and you can donate your moneySee where your representatives stand on the issue, and contact them. If you’ve been impacted by the ban, share your story with us.

If our community is fully invested, we will overturn this ban. 

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.

Memo: Standing in Solidarity with the Iranian People

As Iranians protest in the largest numbers since the disputed 2009 Iranian Presidential election that sparked the Green Movement, many lawmakers are wondering how to stand with Iranians as they bravely make their voices heard. To do so, it is important to recognize that policymakers in Washington will have limited ability to positively impact the ultimate outcome of protests that are Iranian in origin and will ultimately be decided by Iranians. Outside of expressions of moral support, Iranians have not asked for U.S. assistance and many believe that calls for regime change or revolution from the U.S. or other states will hurt the people’s cause and assist in the government’s ability to crack down.

With this in mind, we encourage Congress to take the following practical steps to stand with the Iranian people:

  1. Take immediate action to rescind the Muslim ban, which bars Iranians from traveling to the United States; in order to take a stand in solidarity with the Iranian people, the U.S. must address the enormous trust deficit that Donald Trump has with Iranians. The Muslim Ban that primarily targets Iranians and, combined with antagonistic rhetoric such as his blaming Iran for an ISIS terror attack in the country, Iranians do not believe that Trump or his administration have their best interests in mind. In order to credibly stand with the Iranian people, it is important that policies like the Muslim Ban are rescinded. 
  2. Condemn violence and human rights abuses perpetrated by Iran’s government and call on the Iranian government to honor its human rights obligations, including the right to free speech and peaceful assembly;  
  3. Encourage the Administration to responsibly implement targeted human rights sanctions against violators in Iran’s government under the authorities Congress granted to the President in the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions and Divestment Act of 2010 and the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012;
  4. Ensure that communications technology is available to Iranians, including by encouraging applications to continue operating inside Iran and also taking necessary steps to ensure U.S. sanctions do not prevent other helpful tools from being utilized by Iranians; between 2009 and 2016, the U.S. took steps to lift sanctions on important tools that have helped enable Iranians to communicate freely – including applications, smartphones, and services. Further steps can be taken to ensure tech companies make these tools available to Iranians.
  5. Uphold the Iran nuclear deal and highlight the sanctions relief granted under the agreement that should benefit ordinary Iranians. President Trump and his administration will face key decisions in the weeks ahead on whether or not to extend sanctions waivers under the Iran nuclear deal and on whether to certify the accord under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. Congress must warn Trump against callously shredding the deal, which would threaten to empower hardline elements in Iran and undermine U.S. security interests.