The United States House Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday to advance a bill that would repeal Donald Trump’s travel ban that targets several Muslim majority countries, and would limit the president from imposing future restrictions based on religion.
The House of Representatives panel voted along party lines in favour of advancing the “NO BAN Act”, which was introduced amid widespread outrage over Trump’s travel ban. The measure now moves to the full House.
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Civil rights groups welcomed the House panel’s move.
“Congress took a huge step forward today, sending the message to the president and the country that Muslims and other communities of colour are welcome here. Now that the bill has passed out of committee, we look forward to its swift passage in the House without any further changes,” Mana Waheed, senior legislative and advocacy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a statement.
“We must end these bans and prevent presidents from using rank prejudice to discriminate against black and brown people,” Waheed added.
Today's NO BAN Act hearing sends the message to the President that we are ALL welcome here. https://t.co/gqKjLve7ml
— ACLU (@ACLU) February 12, 2020
The NO Ban Act was introduced in April, and is supported by nearly 250 members of Congress and hundreds of civil rights, faith, national security and community organisations from across the country. It would overturn the travel ban and prevent the president from establishing future restrictions unless the administration provides strong evidence before Congress.
Muslim Advocates, a civil rights organisation based in Washington, DC, said in a statement that “tens of thousands of American Muslims have been cruelly separated from their families by the ban.”
“This needless suffering has not made us safer and instead furthers President Trump’s bigoted agenda of excluding Muslims, Africans, immigrants and other people of colour from the story of America,” according to the statement.
Trump announced his first travel ban in 2017, without warning, days after taking office. It affected several Muslim majority countries and led to chaos at airports across the country as hundreds of travellers were detained and thousands of previously issued visas to the US were revoked.
After lower court rulings invalidated the first two iterations of the ban, the Supreme Court on June 2018 upheld the third version, which applied to citizens of five majority-Muslim nations – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen – and put restrictions on some travellers from Venezuela and North Korea.
Earlier this month, Trump expanded the ban to include some restrictions on six additional countries including, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania. His administration argued these countries failed to meet US security and information-sharing standards.
In a tweet, Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal said the travel ban is a “dark moment in our history” and “sets a standard that the president of the United States can target and discriminate against anyone, without consequences”.
The Trump Administration's implementation of the Muslim Ban is a dark moment in our history. It calls into question all Americans’ basic rights. It sets a standard that the president of the United States can target and discriminate against anyone, without consequences. #NoBanAct
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) February 12, 2020
Even if NO BAN Act passes the Democratic-led House, it has little chance of clearing the Republican-controlled Senate.
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee argued on Wednesday that the bill would limit the president’s ability, saying the measure “effectively eviscerates the ability of the administration to take quick and decisive action to protect our homeland when concerns arise”.
Trump campaigned in 2016 on a promise to ban Muslim immigrants and refugees from entering the country, and has made imposing harsher immigration laws a focus of his presidency and his reelection drive for the 2020 election.