Donald Trump’s ban on travel and immigration from Muslim-majority countries was nothing short of an abuse of presidential power. On January 27, 2017, Trump issued his first attempt at imposing a travel ban through Executive Order 13769. This ban was on Muslim majority countries including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Additionally, the executive order suspended the resettlement of all Syrian refugees. Trump would run into court injunctions and orders, which ultimately blocked this version of the ban. His administration did not relent and subsequently developed two additional iterations of the original ban in an attempt to get it implemented.
The Supreme Court eventually upheld the third version of the ban. When deciding if the policy was discriminatory, the court’s majority opinion did not take into account Trump’s pattern of Islamophobic rhetoric. Trump’s Islamophobia behavior is quite clear and is seen as “imprecise, irresponsible, gratuitous, cynical, and despicable,[and] is part of a pattern of bombastic, uncivilized, and xenophobic behavior that has undoubtedly contributed to the casting of his travel restrictions as a target on Muslims,” by Thomas Buonomo, a former geopolitical risk analyst for an international energy consulting company.
Congress could have held him accountable for this intentionally xenophobic policy that lacked a concrete basis in fact or reason. The Senate Republican majority, in full support of Trump, was unwilling to act at the time, and the House found themselves without many options. Trump would continue expanding on the Muslim ban up until the last year of his presidency in 2020 by adding Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania to the list.
As current President Joseph Biden promised in his campaign, one of the first executive orders he signed was to reverse the Muslim ban. But this reversal of Trump’s executive order does not stop a future president from enacting it once again. This egregious action by the former President needs to be remedied by Congress, so it does not reoccur. No president should be able to ban people from entering the country or seeking asylum based on nefarious intentions and arbitrarily discriminatory criteria.
We all know how harmful this ban was to communities. Many people were unable to seek asylum, unable to access life-saving medical care, barred from joining their families to mourn the loss of a loved one, or even prevented from embracing their loved ones. Increased rates of suicide within the Muslim American community have been tied to growing Islamophobia represented by the ban.
That’s why Congress needs to pass the NO BAN ACT in addition to President Biden’s Executive Order. The NO BAN Act, which would ensure future presidents can’t take similar discriminatory measures, has already been passed by the House on a party-line 218 – 208 vote. Now, we have to press the Senate to act. The NO BAN Act will amend the Immigration and Nationality Act so that Congress has stronger oversight abilities when a president enacts a broad classification travel ban.
Limits on that presidential power are imperative. The enactment of blatant xenophobic policies has no place in our country. It’s crucial that our immigration and travel processes treat people fleeing persecution with empathy and dignity. Having a travel and immigration system gripped by discriminatory policies is cruel, insidious, and a bad reflection on our country.
As humanists, we must bring integrity to our immigration and travel system by supporting the NO BAN Act. No president should be able to ban people from entering the country or seeking asylum based on their religion or where they come from. Humanists adamantly oppose harmful and discriminatory immigration and travel policies. This bill will make the president more accountable to Congress and make sure that people cannot be harmed in the future by similarly xenophobic policies.
If you would like to take action, click here to reach out to your Senator and tell them that the Senate should pass the NO BAN Act now.