The House has passed legislation to limit the future imposition of travel bans like the one that former President Donald Trump imposed targeting Muslims while in office. Eventually, the Trump administration updated its ban to include travelers from Venezuela and North Korea, but the intent was clear — before winning the presidency, Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Including North Korea and Venezuela seemed like a smokescreen meant to obscure anti-Muslim bigotry.
The legislation, called the National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants (NO BAN) Act, passed with 218 votes (including one Republican) in favor and 208 against. If enacted, the bill would ban religious discrimination in immigration policy decisions, and it would demand a “compelling government interest” for any proposed immigration restrictions from any president’s team prior to their implementation. Under the legislation, the State Department and Department of Homeland Security would be compelled to provide some of this supposed basis to Congress before moving to enforce the proposed restrictions.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), the author of the new legislation, insisted that Congress “must make sure no president is ever able to ban people from coming to the U.S. simply because of their religion.” Although the U.S. Supreme Court only upheld a version of the Trump administration’s original Muslim-targeting travel ban in 2018, Trump had moved to try and implement it very soon after taking office. Once taking on the presidency, Joe Biden promptly moved to formally undo the Trump administration’s restrictions.
Notably, Biden has also lifted other Trump era travel restrictions. His team has moved to allow entry to the United States at the southern border above the level of a set of restrictions that Trump had imposed under the guise of the COVID-19 pandemic (which he hardly seemed to care about in most other circumstances!).
Meanwhile, Congress also recently moved to address another problem that emerged during the Trump era, when refugees and people with visas were detained during efforts to enforce the travel ban. The House passed new legislation, with 217 in favor and 207 against, that would ensure that legal residents of the United States have the right and opportunity to speak with an attorney in the event of a detention at an entry point for the United States.