The US Congress on Wednesday voted to repeal the Trump administration’s travel ban and further restrict the president’s power to limit entry to the US, a symbolic victory for Muslim American and civil rights groups.
The bill, which passed the Democrat-controlled House 233-183, had initially been slated for action in March, before the coronavirus forced scheduling changes on Capitol Hill.
The measure is unlikely to advance in the Republican-controlled Senate, where it has no GOP support. But the bill’s passage by the House still elated advocates who had long pushed for formal action against a travel ban that they see as discriminatory.
The White House noted its opposition to the bill in March, saying in a statement that undoing the travel ban “would harm the national security of the United States” and that the ban has been “central to the Administration’s ongoing efforts to safeguard the American people against the spread of COVID-19.”
In debate ahead of the vote, Democrats repeatedly blasted the travel ban that President Donald Trump first imposed in January 2017. They called it biased against Muslims, whose entry into the country Trump first suggested blocking during his 2016 White House run.
The legislation goes beyond overturning Trump’s travel ban, which was retooled amid legal challenges and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2018. The latest version of the ban affects travel from five majority-Muslim nations – Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Libya – in addition to North Korea and by some Venezuelan government officials and their families.
In addition to overturning the travel ban, the bill the House passed also prohibits religious discrimination in the application of immigration law and constrains the executive branch’s ability to limit entry to the US by certain groups of people.
Trump earlier this year added new immigration curbs from six other nations, including majority-Muslim Kyrgyzstan and Sudan, as well as Nigeria, which has the world’s fifth-largest Muslim population, according to the Pew Research Center.
Trump’s Democratic rival in the upcoming presidential election, former Vice President Joe Biden, vowed Monday to rescind Trump’s travel ban “on day one” if he’s elected. His pledge came during a summit focused on Muslim voter turnout.
Muslim Americans and other civil rights advocates have said Wednesday’s vote in the House would help them keep the pressure on for a future rollback of the policy.