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ACLU Says Biden ‘Cemented Trump’s Legacy of Harm’ by Refusing to Undo Damage Caused by Muslim Ban


US President Joe Biden holds a face mask as he participates in a CNN town hall at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, February 16, 2021.

Denouncing the Biden administration’s decision not to honor diversity visa applications for individuals who were negatively impacted by the Trump administration’s travel ban focused on certain Muslim-majority countries, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) heavily criticized the announcement as a failure that enshrines Trump-era racism and Islamophobia as Biden-era policy.

The civil liberties group said that African immigrants were disproportionately targeted by the measures.

“While President Biden is right to call the Muslim ban ‘a stain on our national conscience,’ he has failed to help so many of those harmed by it,” Manar Waheed, the ACLU’s senior legislative and advocacy counsel, said on Tuesday. “The opportunity to ‘win’ a diversity visa is a rare and life-changing opportunity that was snatched away from thousands of people because of President Trump’s hatred and discrimination. Instead of restoring this opportunity, President Biden just dusted off Trump’s ‘CLOSED’ sign and locked the door behind him.”

The American Immigration Council’s lead policy counsel Aaron Reichlin-Melnick told Law&Crime that the decision was “certainly bad for those who were denied diversity visas.”

State Department spokesperson Ned Price, who recently deflected questions from an Associated Press reporter on U.S. policy toward the Palestinians, issued the decision in a press release on Monday.

“FY 2017 – FY 2020 Diversity Visa applicants who were not issued visas are statutorily barred from being issued visas based on their selection as Diversity Visa applicants in those fiscal years, as the deadlines for visa issuance in those fiscal years have expired,” the State Department’s press statement says.

The decision to deny those visa is the capstone on the Biden administration’s day-one efforts to review the Trump administration’s unchecked denials of diversity visas to valid applicants who would might have otherwise been entitled to them if not for the policy known as the “Muslim ban,” which is the term used by most immigration activists and advocates, including the ACLU.

Immigrants impacted by the initially Islam-centered policy, which later grew to include non-Muslim majority nations like North Korea and Venezuela, must restart the expensive and time-consuming visa application process.

The Biden administration’s decision is the result of a 45-day long review mandated by an executive order promulgated on President Joe Biden’s first day in office. That order rescinded the Muslim ban. The ACLU and other civil rights groups had hoped that Biden would eventually undo all of the fallout from the Muslim ban. Those hopes, for now at least, have been dashed.

“This decision threatens to forever prevent thousands of Black and Brown immigrants who meet all of the legal requirements to immigrate to the United States from doing so, perpetuating the effects of the discriminatory ban,” Waheed continued. “Although Biden made the Muslim ban recession a day one priority, that alone is not enough. Today, he cemented Trump’s legacy of harm.”

Muslim Advocates, a national civil rights organization that advocates against bigotry via litigation, lobbying and organizing, criticized the Biden administration for the decision.

“Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban cruelly separated families and imposed serious psychological, financial and even physical harm on countless individuals,” said the group’s Legal Director Mary Bauer. “Disappointingly, after a 45 day review, the Biden administration has chosen to do next to nothing to help undo that harm.”

“For the last four years and even longer, victims of the Muslim ban have been meticulously navigating the red tape to apply for a visa. This includes pouring over documents, paying significant fees, traveling to attend interviews and getting by on the slim hope that they will get a visa and can resume their lives with their families,” Bauer continued. “To those families whose dreams were crushed by the Muslim ban over the past four years, the Biden administration has sent a clear message: sorry, start over and pay us again.”

The Biden administration is offering a limited form of relief. Those whose applications who were rejected on or after January 20, 2020 are allowed to dispute their rejections without submitting new forms or paying again. Those rejected before then are still allowed to reapply but must restart the process from scratch.

“The Biden administration is not doing enough to do right by these families and must find some way to bring them meaningful help,” Bauer added.

[image via SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images]

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