BJC’s Tyler: Expanded travel ban still ‘rooted in anti-Muslim bias’

by | Feb 2, 2020

President Trump has announced an expansion of his administration’s “travel ban,” bringing the total number of countries that are subject to severe travel restrictions to 13. Nigeria, Eritrea, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, and Tanzania were added to the list, joining Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Venezuela, and North Korea.

Earlier versions of the ban emerged from then-candidate Trump’s outrageous proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. As BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler explains in response to this latest announcement, newer versions of President Trump’s ban are still the fruit of that poisonous tree:

The specifics of the travel ban have changed over the past three years, but this fact remains: this policy, no matter how much it undergoes chameleon-like aesthetic adjustments, is ultimately rooted in anti-Muslim bias.

I agree with what my predecessor Brent Walker said then, when he condemned Trump’s Islamophobic proposal as an “un-American, unworkable, counterproductive, and embarrassing” idea that represented “disgusting demagoguery.” Using fear and othering to exclude entire groups of people from our country based on their religious identity is a severe threat to religious freedom. With a Supreme Court unwilling to act, preserving American religious freedom requires the active involvement of all citizens in denouncing religious bigotry in all its forms.

In 2018, the Supreme Court upheld an iteration of the travel ban, despite evidence that the purpose of the policy was to promote anti-Muslim hostility. An amicus brief submitted by constitutional scholars including BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman argued that the policy was unconstitutional. In upholding the policy as an acceptable expression of executive authority, Tyler said at the time, “the Court neglects its duty to uphold our First Amendment principles of religious liberty.”

The expansion of the ban, the New York Times reports, means that “immigrant visas will be banned from Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea and Kyrgyzstan.” As a result, travel to and from Africa’s most populous country will be “virtually blocked.” As for Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya, who are facing a religion-based genocide, they will likely face new obstacles in attempting to flee as refugees to the United States.