On Friday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) sent out a tweet condemning President Trump’s alleged “Muslim ban.”
Daily reminder that we have a **Muslim Ban** in this country made out of the President’s hostility to Muslim people w/ little-to-no supporting evidence, and a Republican Party that tolerates it. There is so much work to do. Repealing the Ban is square 1.
In her tweet, Ocasio-Cortez linked to an article from the Brennan Center, a left-leaning public policy institute, titled “The Fight Against Trump’s Muslim Ban Isn’t Over.”
Here’s the problem: the “Muslim ban” isn’t quite what Ocasio-Cortez and the president’s critics claim it is.
Let’s start with some recent history. In December 2015, former President Obama signed legislation that would restrict travel for individuals from certain countries. The “Restriction On Use Of Visa Wavier Program For Aliens Who Travel To Certain Countries” legislation was part of a larger appropriations bill.
The pertinent text, which amended 8 U.S. Code 1187, reads in part (citations omitted):
(i) the alien has not been present, at any time on or after March 1, 2011— (I) in Iraq or Syria; (II) in a country that is designated by the Secretary of State … or any other provision of law, as a country, the government of which has repeatedly provided support of acts of international terrorism; or (III) in any other country or area of concern.
In 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) added Libya, Somalia, and Yemen to the list of “countries of concern.” The updated list of countries from which travelers could not use the Visa Wavier Program was as follows: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
In January 2017, the Trump administration issued a 90-day travel ban on individuals from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The ban was almost immediately halted by a district court judge. Shortly thereafter, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the ban, reports CNN.
In March 2017, the president issued an updated version, which left Iraq off the list. The updated ban was again blocked by a district court judge.
In September 2017, the administration issued another updated ban, adding the counties of Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela to the list, while removing Sudan and Iraq. Additionally, the ban was made indefinite.
At the time, Politico wrote: “Under the new system, existing visa holders, dual citizens and people already legally admitted to the U.S. are exempt. Waivers will be granted on a case-by-case basis, though exemptions appear to be narrowed under the new directive.”
In June 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision to uphold the travel ban, which had by that time removed Chad from the list.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “the text says nothing about religion,” adding:
The Proclamation is expressly premised on legitimate purposes: preventing entry of nationals who cannot be adequately vetted and inducing other nations to improve their practices.
One can certainly doubt the personal motivations of the president, but from a legal standpoint, the travel ban has been ruled viable. Moreover, if it were a “Muslim ban,” as Rep. Ocasio-Cortez claims, one has to ask why majority-Muslim nations such as Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Guinea, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, and a number of others were left off the list.
As to Ocasio-Cortez’s claim that there is “little-to-no supporting evidence” for the travel ban, the Trump administration has provided a list of reasons as to why certain nations are on the list.
According to a September 2017 White House proclamation:
…the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, has determined that a small number of countries — out of nearly 200 evaluated — remain deficient at this time with respect to their identity-management and information-sharing capabilities, protocols, and practices. In some cases, these countries also have a significant terrorist presence within their territory.
The press release details the reasons behind each nation’s ban. For example, despite Yemen being “an important and valuable counterterrorism partner,” it “faces significant identity-management challenges, which are amplified by the notable terrorist presence within its territory. The government of Yemen fails to satisfy critical identity-management requirements, does not share public-safety and terrorism-related information adequately, and fails to satisfy at least one key risk criterion,” according to the White House.