Rep. Judy Chu and other Democrats seek to block ‘Muslim Ban’ funding

WASHINGTON, D.C. — One of Congress’s leading Asian American legislators took center stage with a few of her colleagues, Jan. 28, to challenge Pres. Donald Trump’s attempts to ban travel into the United States from Muslim-majority countries.

            Rep. Judy Chu, D-California, introduced House of Representatives Bill 810 (HR 810) with Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-California, on Jan. 28. The bill seeks to block funding and implementation of Trump’s “Muslim Ban,” which is now in its third iteration. Trump’s previous two attempts to issue a travel ban on people coming to the United States from Muslim-majority countries were shot down in federal courts.

            U.S. Senators introduced a similar bill in the upper house; Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, and Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, introduced Senate Bill 246 (S. 246).

            Both bills specifically seek to prevent Trump’s Executive Order 13780 from being funded and implemented.

            “The Muslim Ban – now in its third iteration, but wrong in any form – is just one of the weapons Donald Trump is using to foment xenophobia and bigotry and drive wedges in our communities,” Chu said in a released statement. “It is simply un-American. We do not create policies based on religion and we do not target people because of who they worship. That is bigotry at its worst, and it is part of the reason we have seen an increase in hate crimes and violence since Trump started his campaign.

            “We are standing up to say that xenophobia and bigotry have no place in our country,” Chu continued. “That everybody is welcome, regardless of their religion. And that we will not allow one dollar to be spent on bad policies meant only to divide us.”

            The Senate version of the proposed Muslim Ban-blockade stated presidential actions restricting individuals from certain countries from entering the United States would not be allowed.

            “No funds, resources, or fees made available to the Secretary of Homeland Security, or to any other official of a Federal agency by any Act of Congress for any fiscal year, may be used to implement or enforce Executive Order 13780, signed on March 6, 2017 or Presidential Proclamation 9645, issued on September 24, 2017.

            Executive Order 13780, according to the companion bills, violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause (equal protection component).

            Trump’s attempt to ban travel from Muslim-majority countries into the United States started on Jan. 27, 2017, about one week after the president was sworn into office. The executive order targeted foreign nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries and Syrian refugees. The executive order was immediately challenged in court and later blocked.

            A second executive order was issued in March 2018, this one exempting from the ban anyone who had a visa or green card. Iraq was also removed from the travel ban list. The order, however, was blocked less than 10 days later by a federal judge in Hawai’i; a federal court in Maryland followed suit the next day.

            The White House issued a third executive order in September 2017, this one banning travel to the United States from six Muslim-majority countries, North Korea and certain government officials from Venezuela.

            “These additions do not change the fact that this third version remains a Muslim ban,” American Civil Liberties Union staff stated in a Muslim ban timeline it published online. “North Korea accounted for just 61 affected visas last year – out of more than 75 million visitors to the United States. And Venezuela as a country is not banned in any meaningful sense. Only certain Venezuelan government officials and their families are affected, and those individuals are only barred from obtaining tourist and temporary business visas.

            “In contrast, nearly every single person from the Muslim-majority countries is barred from getting a green card, no matter what family, business, or other U.S. connections he or she has,” the American Civil Liberties Union statement continued.

            Challenges to the Muslim Ban continued during the first half of 2018, until the Supreme Court upheld the third iteration of Trump’s immigration directive. The Supreme Court decision to uphold “Muslim Ban 3.0” was issued in June 2018. Members of Congress introduced their companion bills about seven months later.

            The companion bills have several co-sponsors, including Kamala Harris (California) and Mazie Hirono (Hawai’i) in the U.S. Senate and Rashida Tlaib (Michigan), Ilhan Omar (Minnesota), Ro Khanna (California), Mark Takano (California) and Pramila Jayapal (Washington) in the House.

            HR 810 could fare well, as the House of Representatives has a Democratic majority. The success of S. 246, however, could face a tougher road - the U.S. Senate has a 53-47 majority in favor of the Republican Party. (The Senate minority is comprised of 45 Democrats and two Independents.)

            Amnesty International USA, American Civil Liberties Union, Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Council on American-Islamic Relations were among the organizations endorsing the proposed legislation.