April 28, 2020 HUMAN RIGHTS

Human Rights Hero: Congresswoman Judy Chu as a Sponsor of the No Ban Act

by Congresswoman Judy Chu with an introduction by Engy Abdelkader

According to research from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), 74 percent of Republicans support temporarily preventing people from some majority Muslim countries from entering the country. Such anti-Muslim sentiment has culminated in institutionalized discrimination—the Muslim Ban—that was ultimately upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority. Notably, the law signals to the public that Muslims are unwelcome religious and cultural outsiders. In fact, Muslim American advocacy groups claim that anti-Muslim hate crimes surged immediately following the Muslim Ban’s implementation. Additionally, when our laws signal official approval for anti-Muslim discrimination, they help create a precedent for the government to similarly mark other minority groups for disfavored treatment. In fact, on January 31, 2020, the Trump administration expanded the Muslim Ban to include six new countries—four of which are African. Such measures are inimical to the American ethos—rights, liberty, and equality.

It is against this backdrop that we recognize the efforts of Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA) to repeal the Muslim Ban and prevent similar laws from being passed in the future. 

Congresswoman Judy Chu delivers a speech at a Muslim Public Affairs Council event with members of Congress who are actively working to stop the Ban.

Congresswoman Judy Chu delivers a speech at a Muslim Public Affairs Council event with members of Congress who are actively working to stop the Ban.

MPAC National from Flickr.

I will never forget the day President Donald Trump’s first Muslim Ban went into effect. I was in my district in Southern California on my way to an event when I received a frantic call. I learned that 50 Muslims who held green cards were being detained at Los Angeles International Airport for hours, and I was being asked to help. I immediately canceled my appearance, turned my car around, and raced to LAX to help.

Once I arrived, I found out that there were scores of people with similar stories. People with a legal right to be here, kept for hours without food, and blocked from receiving legal advice from an attorney. It was outrageous. And when I pressed Customs and Border Protection for answers, they resisted and blocked me. I even got them on the phone, only to have them hang up on me! It was clear to those of us on the ground that this policy was poorly conceived, hastily executed, motivated by prejudice, and causing enormous pain. That only became more clear in the following weeks, months, and years since that first Muslim Ban. Spouses and fiancés have been separated. Weddings, births, funerals, and graduations have been missed. Over 5,000 adopted children of U.S. citizens cannot join their families.

This is the legacy of the Muslim Ban, not increased safety—because, of course, it was never about that—but separated families and more Americans stung by prejudice. And all this pain is intentional. The fact is, America’s advanced and thorough screening process is one of the strongest in the world, enabling us to safely vet refugees, families, students, and other visitors.

This was even recognized by the Supreme Court in Trump v. Hawaii. While upholding the president’s ability to issue a ban, the Court was also concerned that it not be the “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the U.S.” that Trump had promised. That is why they required the administration to grant waivers to ensure the program had a “legitimate national security interest” beyond just anti-Muslim prejudice. Yet, despite the Supreme Court’s waiver requirement, there have been very few waivers granted.

In fact, of the 72,000 visa waiver applications submitted since the first travel ban, the State Department approved only about 10 percent of them. That means the Trump administration believes 90 percent of all applicants who visit the United States from these countries are a national security threat. That’s a staggering number. And, if that’s the case, there should be evidence, which is exactly what my bill would require.

The Muslim Ban is wrong and inimical to our values. That is why I introduced the No Ban Act (H.R. 2214) along with Senator Chris Coons (D-DE). This bill repeals all versions of the ban and prevents any president from issuing such a ban in the future without demonstrating a clear security or public safety threat. This should not be difficult. If the president believes that our existing vetting system is not working, he should have to demonstrate that. If he believes 90 percent of an entire country (which happens to be majority Muslim) is too dangerous to come here, he should have to demonstrate that. Prejudice and innuendo are not the standards by which we make policy.

The Muslim Ban has always been about keeping us divided. That is why it must be repealed. 

Congresswoman Judy Chu was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in July 2009. She represents the 27th Congressional District, which includes Pasadena and the west San Gabriel Valley of Southern California.