Critics blast Biden administration for denying entry to thousands of people still affected by Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’

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Anwar Alsaeedi sits with his children at their home in Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. Alsaeedi, who had hoped to provide his two children with a better future, said he rejoiced in 2017 when he was picked for the lottery’s “diversity visa” interview. Then he was ineligible due to the Trump administration’s travel ban that affected several Muslim-majority nations. “Our country is embroiled in wars and crises and we’ve lost everything,” he said. “Making it to America is a big dream.”

  • The Biden administration said it would offer visas to people denied entry due to Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban.”
  • But the administration is not granting entry to those who had obtained “diversity visas.”
  • Thousands of such visas are issued each year to members of underrepresented groups.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The last administration’s ban on travel from several majority-Muslim nations was “morally wrong,” in the words of President Joe Biden. But the new administration is denying entry to thousands of people who were affected by it.

Biden, soon after taking office, rescinded the so-called “Muslim ban.” And, this week, his administration announced that a majority of those who were denied entry to the US because of it could apply again for a visa.

But the White House left out one significant group: thousands of people who were selected to receive “diversity visas” – intended, as the name suggests, to encourage migration from underrepresented people – only to have them taken away by an executive order by Donald Trump, who then tried to eliminate the diversity program altogether.

People like Anwar al Saeedi, a Yemeni man who in 2017 expected to be moving to the US with his wife and two young children.

“It was a big dream for me to be able to move my children to America to live in a respectable country, which respects human rights and where it’s possible to live in safety,” he told NPR earlier this year. He is, instead, living in the African nation of Djibouti, where he traveled with his family, spending thousands of dollars to attend interviews for his visa (the US embassy in Yemen has been shuttered amid years of war).

“It’s disheartening and disappointing,” Abed Ayoub, legal and policy director at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, told Insider. The committee represents people like Anwar who made plans for a new life, only for it to be denied.

“These individuals are in a worse off position now,” Ayoub said, “because this government, regardless of whether it’s Biden or Trump, made a promise to them and they acted on that.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, one of several groups to challenge Trump’s travel ban, called the new administration’s decision a disgrace.

“President Biden just dusted off Trump’s ‘CLOSED’ sign and locked the door behind him,” the ACLU attorney Manar Waheed said in a statement. “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.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why it excluded diversity visa recipients from its reversal of the Muslim ban.

But one reason could be the law: The US State Department is limited to issuing 55,000 diversity visas a year, with a specific number set aside for various parts of the world. According to Reuters, Ned Price, a State Department spokesperson, on Monday said that the statute authorizing the program also requires applicants to demonstrate their qualifications within the same fiscal year they were chosen.

Ayoub thinks that’s something of a cop-out. His group had lobbied the administration to bypass any legal issue by granting “humanitarian parole” to those still hurt by the travel ban. Said parole can be issued, according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services, to someone “who is otherwise inadmissible into the United States for a temporary period of time due to an emergency.”

From there, a more permanent solution could be worked on. Ayoub said the goal now is legislation that would allow those on humanitarian parole to apply for asylum or some other residency-granting legal status once they are here.

“But we need the administration and Congress to be on the same page,” he said. “If you call the Muslim ban discriminatory, and you call it a stain, then you should the full extent to rectify what was done.”

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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Those refused entry to the US under Trump’s Muslim ban policy can get a new decision, State Department says

muslim ban protest
People protest the Muslim travel ban outside the Supreme Court on June 26, 2018.

  • People denied entry under Trump’s travel ban could reapply, the State Department said on Monday.
  • Those who were denied on or after January 20, 2020, would not need to resubmit their applications.
  • Those who were denied before January 20, 2020, would have to submit new applications.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

A majority of those denied entry into the US as a result of travel bans imposed by former President Donald Trump can either apply to have the decision reconsidered or re-apply, the State Department announced on Monday.

On January 20, Biden issued an executive order revoking the ban on travel from majority-Muslim countries.

Biden gave the State Department 45 days to provide a report with a proposal on how to handle the applications of those who were denied because of the two travel ban measures Trump implemented.

Most people from Syria, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, North Korea, and Venezuela were prohibited from traveling to the US under a plan initially introduced in 2017. In 2020, Trump added immigrants and travelers from Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania to the list.

The State Department said those who got a final refusal on their application on or after January 20, 2020 “could seek re-adjudication without resubmitting their application forms or paying any additional fees, provided the underlying visa petitions remain valid.”

Those who were denied before January 20, 2020, would have to reapply and pay a new application fee.

US law bars people who were selected as part of the diversity visa lottery between 2017 and 2020 to be issued visas if they have not gotten them already, the statement said.

The Department said while they’re working to make sure those impacted can be helped as soon as possible, the pandemic has made it difficult to process visas.

“As the Department works to serve affected applicants as quickly as possible, the health and safety of our workforce and customers remains paramount. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the health safeguards it has necessitated, continue to severely impact the number of visas our embassies and consulates abroad are able to process,” the statement read.

“Our team in Washington and around the world continue to work tirelessly to find ways to increase the number of immigrant visa appointments, and will continue to do so in the coming months.”

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