Biden repeals Muslim and African travel ban

White House in Washington D.C. (Lightstock Image)

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WASHINGTON—As one of his first official acts, President Joe Biden issued an executive order repealing his predecessor’s travel ban on some Muslim-majority countries and certain African nations—an action applauded by religious liberty advocates.

On his first day in office, Biden signed the executive order ending the travel ban on citizens from Burma, Eritrea, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania and Yemen, along with North Korea and Venezuela. Six of his 17 initial executive orders, memoranda and proclamations dealt with immigration policy.

In his “Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to the United States,” Biden called the previous administration’s policy “a stain on our national conscience” and “inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all.”

‘A victory for faith freedom’

Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, hailed the repeal of the travel ban as “a victory for faith freedom.”

Amanda Tyler

“Since the first week of the Trump administration, we’ve seen various versions of this policy rooted in anti-Muslim bias, targeting individuals based on their religious identity. The specifics and wording changed over the years, but no aesthetic adjustments could alter the religious discrimination inherent in the ban,” Tyler said.

“Religious freedom is threatened when our leaders use fear and othering to exclude entire groups of people from our country based on their religious identity.”

Tyler called the repeal of the ban “an important step,” but she said the executive order “does not undo the damage this policy has done to religious freedom.”

“If we want to truly preserve faith freedom for all, we as Americans must loudly and clearly denounce religious bigotry in all its forms—now and in the future,” she said.

‘Crucial first step’

Rachel Laser, president and chief executive officer of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, similarly praised the travel ban’s repeal as “a crucial first step.”

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“President Biden’s swift action to end the Muslim and African ban, which was driven by clear hostility toward Muslims and their faith, rights a terrible wrong. It is a crucial first step toward reuniting families and demonstrating President Biden’s commitment to protecting the rights of religious minorities,” Laser said.

“We look forward to a government that will protect everyone’s religious freedom and our nation’s unfulfilled vision of equality and inclusion for all.”

Concerns about national security

Not everyone praised Biden’s executive action.

Andrew Arthur, resident fellow in law and policy with the Center for Immigration Studies, agreed review of the Trump Administration policies “may have been called for,” but he said “outright repeal is likely in error.”

“What’s done is done. What comes next, however, remains to be seen,” Arthur wrote. “I fervently hope that the national security will not be impacted. But I cannot guarantee it.”

However, Biden insisted national security would not have to be compromised by lifting the travel ban.

“Make no mistake, where there are threats to our nation, we will address them,” he stated in his official proclamation. “Where there are opportunities to strengthen information-sharing with partners, we will pursue them. And when visa applicants request entry to the United States, we will apply a rigorous, individualized vetting system. But we will not turn our backs on our values with discriminatory bans on entry into the United States.”

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