Donald Trump began his presidency with a Muslim ban, and President Joe Biden has begun his by revoking one. On his first day in office, Biden followed through on a campaign promise by issuing an executive order that revokes the final version of the Muslim ban—which blocked people from seven, mostly Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States—along with another immigration ban that largely impacted people from four African nations.
Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s National Security Adviser, told reporters on Tuesday that the order directs the State Department to return to normal processing of applications for people who’ve been impacted by the bans. Sullivan added that Biden is asking the State Department to find ways to help people who’ve been denied entry to the United States as a result of those bans, as well those whose applications have been stuck in administrative limbo.
The bans have led to thousands of children, spouses, and parents being separated from loved ones in the United States. Immigration lawyers say bureaucratic hurdles, Trump’s attacks on the immigration system, and the ongoing pandemic mean that it will likely take months, and potentially more than a year, before people are finally able to immigrate to the United States.
“While this is absolutely amazing news that Biden is getting rid of the Muslim and Africa travel ban,” said Mahsa Khanbabai, a Massachusetts immigration attorney, “I think, sadly, it’s really going to take time for families to be able to actually come together.” Hiba Ghalib, an attorney at the Atlanta-based immigration law firm Kuck Baxter, said that in other cases people haven’t started green card applications because of the Muslim ban. Now, those cases will be starting from scratch.
Trump’s initial Muslim ban in January 2017 caused chaos and outrage at airports across the nation as people from mostly Muslim-majority nations were blocked from entering the United States.
The rushed executive order was quickly blocked in court, but a third version of the ban was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2018. The ban applied to people from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and Venezuela, and allowed some people to receive waivers to come to the United States. But in practice, the waivers often proved impossible to obtain.
Last year, Trump issued another immigration ban that applied to six countries, including Nigeria and three other African nations. The Africa ban was ostensibly designed to protect national security because of vague concerns such as how much intelligence information the targeted countries were sharing with the United States. In practice, the ban appeared to be more about demographics: It only applied to immigrants who wanted to settle in the United States, not people traveling on temporary visas.
( Source: Noah Lanard, Mother Jones, 1/20/2021 )