It is time to end the arbitrary punishment of the Muslim American community.
Abdulrahman Alhababi is separated from his youngest son, Yousef, 13, and does not know if and when they will ever be reunited. Abdulrahman is a U.S. citizen living in Brooklyn, New York, with his three other U.S. citizen sons, but Yousef was born in Yemen and does not have American citizenship. Abdulrahman had faith that he could apply for a visa for Yousef and reunite his family, especially as the war in Yemen escalated in 2015.
Everything changed on Jan. 27, 2017, when Donald Trump fulfilled his campaign promise of "a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering this country" in the form of an Executive Order prohibiting the entry of citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries.
As a result, Yousef and hundreds of thousands of other petitioners suddenly found themselves indefinitely banned from the United States, told that their case was in "administrative processing" with no end date given.
The truth is that Abdulrahman’s case is extremely similar to that of thousands of Muslim Americans whose loved ones are still banned from this country due to the Muslim ban that turns three years old on Monday. For millions more Muslim Americans whose loved ones were lucky enough to already be in the United States, they are left feeling like second-class citizens.
This is the legacy of the Muslim ban. Not increased safety — because of course it was never about that — but separated families and more Americans stung by prejudice, told they do not belong here because they are different.
Children like Yousef don’t threaten the national security of the United States — but undermining our values on the world stage does. The Muslim ban has always been about keeping us divided. That is why it must be repealed.
Instead, as we mark this inauspicious anniversary, Trump is looking to build on the failure of his Muslim ban by adding yet more countries to the list.
That means more grandchildren who will never be able to kiss their grandparents. More loved ones unable to say goodbye at a funeral. More graduations where the proud student has no beaming parents cheering for them in the crowd. And more families forced to make impossible decisions under the most trying circumstances.
And we want to be clear: Those separations, that longing, that pain is all intentionally created by this Muslim ban.
The fact is, America already has one of the strongest and best vetting systems in the world. Through biometric, biographic, and other screenings, we are absolutely capable of determining that there is no threat in a pediatrician and math teacher visiting their grandchild. Just as we are and have been able to vet other family members, refugees, students, or visitors from other countries for years.
Even the Supreme Court recognized this. When they upheld Trump’s ability to issue these bans, the Court also required the administration to grant waivers. Such waivers would ensure the program had a "legitimate national security interest" and wasn’t just a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," as Trump said he wanted. However, despite the Supreme Court’s requirement, there have been very few waivers.
In fact, of the 72,000 visa waiver applications submitted since the first travel ban, the State Department has approved just 7,679. That’s just about 10% — which means the Trump administration believes 90% of all applicants to visit the United States from majority-Muslim countries are a national security threat.
That’s a staggering number. And if that’s the case, there should be evidence of that threat. Which is exactly what our bill, the NO BAN Act, will require.
We know the Muslim ban is wrong and inimical to our values. That is why our bill repeals all three versions. It also changes the authority of any president to issue such a ban without demonstrating a clear national security threat.
This should not be difficult. If Trump believes our existing vetting system is not working, he should show us the evidence. If he believes 90% of an entire country’s population (which happens to be majority Muslim) is too dangerous to come here, he should have to demonstrate that.
It is time to end the arbitrary punishment of the Muslim American community. We are proud to have 214 representatives — almost half of the entire House of Representatives — as cosponsors on our No Ban Act. And we believe that now is the time to stop, not expand, the pain and division of the Muslim ban.
Because no American should have their family members permanently separated from them, simply because of the country from which they come.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal is a second-term Democrat representing Washington’s 7th District. She serves as co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and is a senior Democratic whip on both the Budget, Education and Labor Committee and Judiciary Committee. She is one of just 14 naturalized citizens currently serving in the United States Congress.
Rep. Max Rose is a Democrat representing New York's 11th District of Staten Island and South Brooklyn. He is an Army combat veteran and chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence & Counterterrorism.
Rep. Judy Chu is the representative for California’s 27th Congressional District. She serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, the House Small Business Committee, and is the Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC).