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.