In a transparent political stunt intended to prove how pro-tolerance and, more specifically, pro-Muslim they are, a group of more than 70 Democrats presented a “Religious Freedom Act” on the eve of Donald Trump’s visit to Capitol Hill that forbids the use of someone’s religion to block them from entering the country.
The group of Democrats introduced the brief, dead on arrival legislation on Wednesday, having openly crafted it as a response to Trump’s proposed “Muslim ban,” despite Trump not holding office and having walked back his original proposal already. The one-paragraph proposed amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act says that religious tests should not be a part of the immigration process.
The proposed amendment, titled “Prohibition on denying admission because of religion,” states that “notwithstanding any other provision of the immigration laws, an alien may not be denied admission to the United States because of the alien’s religion or lack of religious beliefs.”
Theoretically, that would even apply to migrants who embrace radical Islam.
“It’s very narrow in scope. We’re not going to discriminate when it comes to immigration based on religion,” the bill’s author Rep. Don Beyer (D-, told ABC News.
Though Beyer admitted that the bill had no real chance of passing, he made clear that presenting meaningful legislation was not really the point in the first place. The political stunt, he made clear, is really about condemning Trump and giving “hope” to Muslims.
“At the very least, having the bill out there gives encouragement out there to Americans that Donald Trump’s ideas are not ruling the day on this issue,” said Beyer. “We’re pushing back with a strong, clear voice.”
Beyer said they hadn’t planned to present the bill right before Trump arrived, but admitted the “coincidence is a fortuitous one.” Beyer had previously joined other House Democrats introducing legislation “condemning violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslim-Americans.”
“The new bill has also attracted the support of several advocacy groups, some of whom are unusual bedfellows,” reports ABC News. Among those supporting the bill are the Anti-Defamation League, the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Interfaith Alliance, and some 30 others.
All the political posturing, including Trump’s dumb outright ban on Muslims, aside, the reality is that religion has always been a factor in U.S. immigration policy, particularly in regard to migrants applying for asylum due to religious discrimination. National Review‘s Andy McCarthy, a former U.S. assistant attorney, points to U.S. Code Title 8, section 1158, which says: (emphasis bolded)
The burden of proof is on the applicant to establish that the applicant is a refugee, within the meaning of section 1101(a)(42)(A) of this title. To establish that the applicant is a refugee within the meaning of such section, the applicant must establish that race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion was or will be at least one central reason for persecuting the applicant.
The term “refugee” means (A) any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion…