CHICAGO: The US House of Representatives on Wednesday approved legislation that would repeal President Donald Trump’s controversial 2017 immigration ban targeting visitors from a number of predominantly Muslim countries.
The “No Ban Act” would also reign in the authority of the president to prevent a similar ban from being introduced by future administrations, and expand antidiscrimination provisions in US immigration law.
With 233 in favor and 183 against, Wednesday’s vote was largely split along party lines. Although the passage of the bill in the Democrat-controlled House sent a strong message about the party’s stance on immigration, it now faces a vote in Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, who support Trump.
Even if the bill passes the Senate, it would then go to the president for signing. He would be certain to veto it, forcing the House and Senate to vote again in an attempt to override his veto with a supermajority vote, which requires a two-thirds majority in favor.
“National-security experts have been clear that the ‘Muslim ban’ has made our country less safe,” said Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. She represents Michigan’s 12th District, which has one of the country’s largest Arab American populations. “In fact, strong national-security policies include protecting the fundamental pillars of our democracy: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, compassion and justice.
“My constituents fled war and violence in their home countries, and their families still experience it daily. The Muslim travel ban keeps these families separated, while it runs contrary to our values as Americans, and I am proud to send a strong message that we will not allow fear and hatred to divide us.
“We must stand together as Americans to protect the values and ideals that make this nation great.”
The No Ban Act — short for National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants Act — was introduced in April 2019 by Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, and California Rep. Judy Chu.
Trump issued his executive order, titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” in Jan. 2017. Detractors denounced it as a ban on Muslims. The order, which has been revised several times, targets visitors from predominantly Muslim countries Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, along with travelers from certain non-Muslim countries, including North Korea, and some government officials from Venezuela. Trump expanded the ban to include other countries, including Nigeria, Sudan and Myanmar
Several courts have found the order to be unconstitutional. However, the US Supreme Court ruled in June 2018 that it was within the constitutional powers of the president. Adoption of the No Ban Act would overrule this Supreme Court ruling.
Despite the slim chances of the bill progressing further, the House approval was hailed by Arab and Muslim organizations as a step toward preventing discriminatory laws being enacted by future White House administrations
It also positions anti-Muslim discrimination to be a key issue in the upcoming presidential election. Joe Biden, who is likely to be the Democrat’s choice to challenge Trump in November, has denounced the ban and said that, if elected, he will repeal the executive order.
Wa’el Alzayat, the CEO of Emgage Action, a Muslim advocacy organization in Washington DC, said the legislation would end the Trump administration’s discrimination against Muslims.
“Today, we came one step closer to ensuring that no human being is illegitimate, unwelcome or bannable,” he said. “The Muslim ban, in all its iterations, has been absolutely antithetical to our American values of diversity, inclusion, and liberty and justice for all. Its shameful existence will forever be an undeniably dark part of our history.
“But today, we are incredibly heartened to call ourselves Americans and to continue working to uphold the values we so dearly espouse. We are proud that Congress has proven to be on the right side of history, and has contributed to an America in which all people, regardless of faith, can be American. “Now, we urge the Senate to pass the No Ban Act so that we can put an end to this vitriolic banning of humanity, once and for all."
Farhana Khera, the executive director of Muslim Advocates, said: “For the first time ever, a chamber of Congress has passed a Muslim civil rights bill. We went office-to-office and district-to-district to gain support for the No Ban Act and convince House leaders to make it a priority.
“But most importantly, this vote marks the beginning of the end of the Muslim ban, a cruel policy that continues to tear families apart. Now we must take the fight to the Senate, where we refuse to stop fighting until every senator hears from us and the bill lands on the president’s desk.”
Some groups questioned parts of the bill they believe to be unconstitutional and misguided, but welcomed the legislation overall.
“While this is an important first step, the act is not perfect,” said a spokesman for the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. “It does contain language that falsely links immigrant communities to COVID-19. This language was unnecessary and weakened the final version of the act. Moving forward, we call on lawmakers to support the full passage of this bill without the additional and unnecessary language.
“Since taking office in 2017, the Trump administration has continuously targeted immigrants and communities of color. Despite the recognition that white-supremacist violence is a serious issue, the administration continues to focus on suppressing the rights of minority and immigrant communities.
“The xenophobic immigration agenda of the administration was furthered earlier this year when additional countries, mainly in Africa, were added to the Muslim ban.”
Supporters of Trump’s executive order point out that of the 50 nations with predominantly Muslim populations, most are not affected by the restrictions on entering the US.