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Biden Administration Ends Muslim-Focused Travel Bans

21 Jan

On January 20, 2021, President Biden issued a Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to The United States, which revoked a series of Trump era Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations that imposed bans on travel to the United States by citizens and nationals of certain countries.  

Starting in the early days of his administration, former President Trump issued a series of Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations that had the effect of banning most immigrants and many nonimmigrants from several countries. Most countries listed in the initial ban were Muslim, and in later versions of the ban, African. As reported in previous Immigration Updates, the early iterations of the bans were successfully challenged in federal court, forcing the administration to revise the bans to pass judicial scrutiny. 

The result was a group of Presidential Proclamations that imposed a ban on all immigrants from Burma (Myanmar), Eritrea, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Nigeria, North Korea, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia; a ban on all Diversity Immigrants from Sudan and Tanzania; and bans of varying degrees on nonimmigrants from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Somalia. While some of the restrictions allowed for the issuance of visas to individuals qualifying for a waiver, in practice, such waivers were rarely approved. 

President Biden’s new proclamation outlines the president’s rationale for ending the bans: 

The United States was built on a foundation of religious freedom and tolerance, a principle enshrined in the United States Constitution.  Nevertheless, the previous administration enacted a number of Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations that prevented certain individuals from entering the United States — first from primarily Muslim countries, and later, from largely African countries.  Those actions are a stain on our national conscience and are inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all. 

Beyond contravening our values, these Executive Orders and Proclamations have undermined our national security.  They have jeopardized our global network of alliances and partnerships and are a moral blight that has dulled the power of our example the world over.  And they have separated loved ones, inflicting pain that will ripple for years to come.  They are just plain wrong.

The proclamation directs the Secretary of State to report on those visa applicants who had pending waiver applications and develop a plan to “expeditiously [adjudicate] their pending visa applications.” The Secretary of State must also consider whether to reopen immigrant visa applications that were denied based on the bans, to expedite those cases, and to ensure that previous travel ban-related denials would not prejudice new applications. 

Additionally, the proclamation emphasizes that the Department of State will “apply a rigorous, individualized vetting system” as opposed to blanket bans. In an effort to strengthen national security, the new proclamation directs the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to work with the Director of National Intelligence to provide the president with a report that describes current screening and vetting procedures for visa applicants, evaluates the efficacy of foreign government information-sharing practices, recommends improvements to screening and vetting activities, and assesses the effectiveness of the current use of social media identifiers in the screening and vetting process. 

Foster will continue to monitor developments in connection with the new administration’s changes to immigrant and nonimmigrant matters and will make future updates available on our firm’s website at