Biden reverses travel ban on first day in ‘victory for faith freedom’

by | Jan 21, 2021

In one of his first official actions, newly inaugurated President Joe Biden reversed one of the most troubling, controversial, and highly litigated policies of his predecessor. By executive order, Biden repealed the Muslim and African travel ban, which barred immigration to and from certain countries, almost all of which were predominantly Muslim.

You can read President Biden’s entire executive order online. Here is an excerpt:  

The United States was built on a foundation of religious freedom and tolerance, a principle enshrined in the United States Constitution.  Nevertheless, the previous administration enacted a number of Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations that prevented certain individuals from entering the United States — first from primarily Muslim countries, and later, from largely African countries.  Those actions are a stain on our national conscience and are inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all.


Beyond contravening our values, these Executive Orders and Proclamations have undermined our national security.  They have jeopardized our global network of alliances and partnerships and are a moral blight that has dulled the power of our example the world over.  And they have separated loved ones, inflicting pain that will ripple for years to come.  They are just plain wrong.  


Make no mistake, where there are threats to our Nation, we will address them.  Where there are opportunities to strengthen information-sharing with partners, we will pursue them.  And when visa applicants request entry to the United States, we will apply a rigorous, individualized vetting system.  But we will not turn our backs on our values with discriminatory bans on entry into the United States.


The travel ban saga was one of the ugliest chapters of the last several years, originating in then-candidate Trump’s “un-American, unworkable, counterproductive and embarrassing” vow in 2015 to bar Muslims from entering the United States. As president, Trump issued an executive order aimed at furthering that discriminatory goal. Struck down by multiple courts, the ban was amended and ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court in 2018. As BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler noted, however, in explaining her disappointment with that ruling, the policy “is ultimately rooted in anti-Muslim bias.”

Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “NO BAN Act,” which would have undone the travel ban through legislation, but the Senate refused to take it up. Biden’s action today achieved that repeal through executive action.

Tyler issued a statement hailing the reversal, but warning that repeal alone is not enough to repair the harms inflicted by the ban.

“Today’s repeal of the Muslim and African travel ban by President Joe Biden is a victory for faith freedom. Since the first week of the Trump administration, we’ve seen various versions of this policy rooted in anti-Muslim bias, targeting individuals based on their religious identity. The specifics and wording changed over the years, but no aesthetic adjustments could alter the religious discrimination inherent in the ban.

Repealing the ban is an important step, but it does not undo the damage this policy has done to religious freedom. If we want to truly preserve faith freedom for all, we as Americans must loudly and clearly denounce religious bigotry in all its forms – now and in the future.”

Visit for resources from BJC on the issueBJC also signed a letter today alongside 80 other organizations calling on Congress to prevent similar bans from being enacted in the future. Let’s hope that no president ever again is able to divide Americans so blatantly along religious lines. True religious freedom requires freedom for all.