Washington, DC – Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously passed an amendment introduced by Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) that would require public reporting on President Trump’s travel ban, including the number of visa waivers granted to citizens of the banned countries. The measure is part of the 2019 State Department Budget and comes after PAAIA, IABA, and Pars Equality Center worked with Sen. Van Hollen in seeking clarification from the administration on the implementation of the Presidential Proclamation 9645 (Travel Ban 3.0).
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to lift the stay on the Travel Ban, the coalition received numerous reports of long-pending visa applications under “administrative processing” being denied, en masse rejection of visa applicants, and the unavailability of waiver applications.
As a result of our efforts with Sen. Van Hollen, it was revealed that of 6,555 waiver applications, only two visas had received approval from the ban’s implementation in early December until late February.
“The Trump Administration has claimed to the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the American people that their travel ban is not unfairly targeting Muslims and that waivers are being issued on a case-by-case basis – but they have provided virtually no information to validate that claim. Instead, the process has been shrouded in an unusual level of secrecy that raises serious concerns about its legality,” said Sen. Van Hollen. “This legislation will help ensure that the public – and particularly those American citizens with family and friends in the banned countries – have the information they deserve.”
The purpose of the amendment and the previous senate letters is to seek an explanation and clarification on how the ban is being processed and implemented, as well as hold the administration accountable for their implementation of this policy. The amendment, if passed into law, requires the state department to submit a report detailing the total number of visa applicants, pending applicants, and rejected applicants every 90 days to the appropriate congressional committees.
Pending the Supreme Court decision, Sen. Van Hollen’s amendment could prove crucial in ensuring transparency over the implementation of the travel ban and as means to continue to challenge the discriminatory policy. PAAIA, IABA, and PARS Equality Center remain committed to protecting the civil liberties of Iranian Americans and will continue to advocate against the discriminatory travel ban. The three organizations along with over 25 individual plaintiffs have challenged President Trump’s latest iteration of the travel and refugee bans in Federal court.
PAAIA thanks Sen. Van Hollen for his leadership on this important issue. We also thank the NIAC for working with Sen. Van Hollen’s office on the amendment.