Coons said in an interview that every Democratic senator running for president in 2020 has endorsed the legislation. He said thousands of U.S. citizens have been “forced to live apart” from relatives, missing weddings, funerals or the births of grandchildren because of policies that he said do not enhance national security.
“The fact that we still have this so-called Muslim travel ban on the books and being enforced is a stain on our reputation around the world,” he said. “And it’s hurting real people.”
Though the bill’s chances of passing the GOP-controlled Senate are slim, the measure offers Democrats another route into the national conversation on immigration. Presidential candidate Julián Castro issued his own proposals this month, the first detailed immigration policy blueprint from any of the Democratic candidates for president. Democrats are also working on immigration-related measures on the border and health care for immigrants in detention, according to the Associated Press.
Since Trump took office and imposed a travel ban against citizens of a group of mainly Muslim-majority nations in 2017, immigration to the United States by nationals of those countries has slowed, with Iran being one of the hardest hit, according to Reuters. The United States is also on pace for one of the lowest levels of refugee resettlement on record and is considering tougher restrictions, including a new version of family separation, to block rising numbers of migrants crossing the southern border.
Coons said it doesn’t matter that the Senate and White House are unlikely to support the bill.
“I recognize with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in place and President Trump in the White House, the odds this bill will get a floor vote in the Senate and signed into law by the president are very slim,” he said. “It is still worth articulating that there is a legal path towards keeping our country safe and narrowing the power of the executive so that a future president does not do this again.”
Chu, the House sponsor of the bill, titled the “No Ban Act,” said in a statement that Trump’s immigration policy “endangers the lives of refugees who seek safety here.”
The Supreme Court narrowly upheld Trump’s travel ban last year, saying the president has the authority to bar travelers to protect national security, a decision Trump viewed as a major vindication of his efforts. The president had issued three versions of the ban, starting in January 2017, but lower courts had struck them down.
The current ban applies to citizens of Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen. Nationals of the affected countries can apply for waivers, and thousands have been granted, but Coons said thousands of people have been kept out.
Trump also severely restricted refugee admissions. The cap was lowered from 110,000 in the last year of the Obama administration to 30,000 this year, the lowest since the Refugee Act came into effect in 1980.
The Democratic bill would repeal Trump’s travel bans; a 2018 asylum prohibition seeking to bar access to U.S. protection for immigrants, mainly Central Americans, who crossed the border illegally; and his imposition of extreme vetting for refugees. The bill also would add religion to Section 202(a), the nondiscrimination clause of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
The measure would also impose new restrictions on the president’s broad authority to limit immigration to the United States under Section 212 (f) of the INA, the legal foundation for many of Trump’s actions, by requiring the executive branch to brief Congress on the issues within 48 hours of the emergency, and every 30 days after that, or the executive order would expire.
The bill would preserve the president’s ability to use his authority when the administration believes, “based on credible facts,” that it is sensible to suspend access to the United States by certain individuals.