President Trump seems intent on keeping most, if not all, of his campaign promises, including his pledge to discriminate against Muslims when it comes to immigration and asylum applications. While his most recent executive order on the issue has been halted by the judicial system, Trump seems intent on “protecting our borders” through profiling and discriminatory policies, and he’s likely to push for legislation that does just that if his executive orders continue to be stopped.
Thankfully, not all those in Congress are content to sit back and let the president have his way. Representative Don Beyer (D-VA) just reintroduced legislation, HR 852, which prevents immigrants from being denied entry into the United States because of their religious beliefs or lack thereof. The American Humanist Association, in coalition with other religious freedom and civil liberties groups, worked to ensure that the rights of nonreligious immigrants were included in this bill. The Freedom of Religion Act of 2017 specifically states that “an alien may not be denied admission to the United States because of the alien’s religion or lack of religious beliefs.”
The bill, introduced by Beyer and co-leads, Reps. Joe Crowley (D-NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Andre Carson (D-IN), and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), can be viewed here. Importantly, the bill has widespread support with over 95 additional co-sponsors and a long list of endorsing advocacy organizations, including the American Humanist Association.
This is an important step not only for religious minorities, but also for humanists and other nontheists who may very soon join Muslims on the president’s list of unfavorables. After all, atheists and humanists have faced years of discrimination when it comes to immigration, so having a law on the books that seeks to treat atheists equally when it comes to immigration would be a huge victory.
Whether or not this bill actually passes is dependent on whether Republicans can get behind it, but with no current Republican co-sponsors, our work is cut out for us. Republicans have largely been steadfast in their support of President Trump’s actions, and even Vice President Mike Pence, having tweeted in December of 2015 that “calls to ban Muslims from entering the US are offensive and unconstitutional,” is now on board with the president’s travel ban.
Humanists must rally around the most vulnerable among us, and inform our government representatives that anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim policies are fundamentally un-American and go against the pluralistic, democratic principles that have made this country great for so long. With Republican support, legislation like the Freedom of Religion Act can help America begin to heal.