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Statement on Expansion of Travel Ban

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SILVER SPRING, Md. Today the Trump administration extended the reach of the travel ban to the United States, adding new restrictions on people coming from Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania. The ban suspends the issuing of visas that can lead to permanent residency for Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, and Nigeria, as well as visas available by lottery for applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States for Sudan and Tanzania. 

“This administration’s unrelenting assault on legal immigration is also an insistence on isolation at the price of freedom,” said President and CEO of HIAS Mark Hetfield. “But worse, this is an extension of a policy of hatred and fear of the other. What started out three years ago as a “mostly Muslim” ban is turning into something just as ugly: xenophobia, forced family separation, and stopping people  especially those escaping volatile situations in Eritrea, Myanmar, and Sudan  from coming to safety in the U.S.” 

President Trump signed the initial version of the travel ban on Jan. 27, 2017, poignantly, International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Significant portions of the ban, as well as later versions of it, were blocked by federal courts, some finding the bans to be discriminatory, anti-Muslim, unconstitutional, or an abuse of the president’s power.

On June 26, 2018, a version of the ban was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. It restricts the entry into the United States for citizens of mostly Muslim-majority countries–Syria, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia–but also includes North Koreans and certain Venezuelan government officials. At the time Hetfield said the ban was not simply an exercise in executive authority, but the administration’s “official license to discriminate on the basis of religion and nationality.” 

The administration claims the expanded travel ban is vital to national security and ensures countries meet U.S. security needs. The total number of countries on the restricted travel list now stands at 13.

Congressional Democrats plan to vote on a bill in the coming weeks that would strike down the ban and curb the president’s authority to impede travel to the United States. HIAS is asking people to contact their members of Congress to support the No Ban Act, which would repeal the ban and amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to prohibit discrimination based on religion.

HIAS will continue to work with local partners and the Jewish community to fight to ensure that America remains a nation that accepts people without judging them by faith or national origin.

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