The House of Representatives passed legislation on Wednesday to prevent a president from ordering broad bans on travel into the U.S., a targeted attack on executive authority following former President Donald Trump’s ban on travel from mostly Muslim-majority nations.
The chamber voted 218 to 208 in support of the bill, referred to as the No Ban Act, with one Republican joining all House Democrats. If enacted, it would limit the president’s ability to control immigration, place any travel bans under congressional oversight and mandate that they be temporary. The bill would also prohibit religious discrimination as part of any immigration decisions.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), the sponsor of the legislation, said on the floor Wednesday that Trump’s executive orders banning certain travelers were “always wrong, needless and cruel.”
“Today we can make sure it never happens again,” Chu said. “America does not ban people because of their religion.”
The bill is unlikely to sail through the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority with 50 seats and Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote.
Trump had long pledged to shut down the entry of Muslims into the United States during this 2016 campaign and made good on his promise during the early days of his administration, signing an order for a sweeping ban against seven Muslim-majority nations in January 2017. Amid a prolonged legal battle, the White House was forced to amend the ban twice, and the Supreme Court upheld it by a vote of 5-4 in 2018. Eventually the ban included travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Chad, North Korea and Venezuela. A later order put restrictions on residents from Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania.
Critics said the bans amounted to a blatant attempt to penalize Muslims and was part of Trump’s broader effort to limit almost all immigration into the United States.
President Joe Biden eased those bans in his first days in office.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, commended the passage of the legislation, saying, if approved, it would rein in “executive overreach” and preserve the power of Congress to establish immigration laws. He said Trump had “abused” his authority, “twisting it in ways that were never intended.”
“In advancing this legislation today, we uphold our nation’s founding ideals and we reaffirm our commitment to the Rule of Law,” Nadler said in a statement on Wednesday. “Members on both sides of the aisle should agree that no president — Republican or Democratic — should be permitted to usurp the powers of the legislative branch enshrined in the Constitution.”
The White House said earlier this week it supported the No Ban Act, saying the “prior administration’s haphazard misuse of this authority highlights the need for reasonable constraints.”
Biden faced fierce criticism this month over his decision to retain a historically low limit of 15,000 on the number of refugees allowed to enter the U.S. in a year, a cap set by the Trump administration. Biden had earlier promised to allow more than 60,000 refugees, and the White House has since walked back the restrictive number and said it would announce a new cap by mid-May.
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