Washington, D.C. –Today, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement during a Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations joint hearing on "Oversight of the Trump Administration's Muslim Ban:"
"When the Trump Administration issued its first version of the Muslim Ban in January 2017, it was immediately apparent that it was unconstitutional, discriminatory, and morally reprehensible. The day after the Executive Order was signed, I, along with my colleague from New York, Representative Velazquez, went to JFK Airport to make sure that those who were arriving would have their visas honored.
"The scene at the airport was chaotic and heartbreaking. Refugees, people with valid visas, and even legal permanent residents, were detained for hours and prevented from speaking with their attorneys.
"But amidst all the confusion, I also observed America at its best—the incredible outpouring of compassion and support for individuals subject to the ban, offered by volunteers from all walks of life, was inspiring.
"Alongside these volunteers, Representative Velazquez and I helped to secure the release of two individuals who were detained by Customs and Border Protection because of the ban. One such individual was Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an Iraqi who had been granted a special immigrant visa for risking his life working with American and coalition forces abroad as a translator for 10 years.
"What I saw that day at JFK gave me great hope. I did not know that people all over this country would rush to the airports that day to unite against this outrageous policy, or that the courts would so quickly and effectively block what amounted to a xenophobic Muslim ban.
"When the second version of the ban was also stopped by the courts, the Trump Administration went back to the drawing board a third time. Sadly, the inclusion of a phony waiver process, along with the naming of a couple of non-Muslim majority countries was enough to convince the Supreme Court that this last version of the ban passed constitutional muster. We are now living with the consequences of that fateful decision.
"Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, the ban has had a significant impact on American communities. It has severed support systems and kept families apart. A 2019 Cato Institute analysis found that the ban has prevented more than 9,000 family members of U.S. citizens from entering the country, including more than 5,500 children.
"The ban provides for a waiver on a case-by-case basis if a Department of State consular officer or Customs and Border Protection official determines that (1) denying entry would cause "undue hardship" to the individual; (2) admission of the individual would not pose a threat to national security or public safety; and (3) admission of the individual would be in the national interest.
"While this sounds straightforward enough, it is anything but. In his dissent in Trump v. Hawai’i, which upheld the third version of the Muslim Ban, Justice Breyer noted that "waivers are not being processed in an ordinary way" and "there is reason to suspect that the Proclamation’s waiver program is "nothing more than a sham." This skepticism is warranted. Only 5 percent of adjudicated claims have been approved for a waiver.Moreover, reports from inside the Department of State indicate that the Department’s internal guidance on the waiver process is inconsistent with its public representations.
"As we consistently see in media reports, and as we will hear from some of the witnesses today, the cases of far too many individuals languish for months, and some for well more than a year in the black hole known as “administrative processing.” In that time, U.S. citizens, including children, remain separated from their families with no recourse.
"The Muslim Ban has not made us safer.It has weakened our standing in the world and runs contrary to our country’s moral and philosophical foundation. The United States has always been, and must continue to be, a place that welcomes and embraces people of all religions and nationalities.
"Our country’s reputation as a beacon of hope, tolerance, and inclusion for those fleeing persecution, reuniting with their families, or simply seeking a better life, has been tarnished by the acts of this Administration, and by the ongoing implementation of this Muslim ban.
"It is incumbent upon us here in Congress to call the Administration to task and to hold it accountable for its discriminatory policies until they are effectively repealed.
"I thank our two Chairs, Ms. Lofgren and Mr. Bera, for holding this hearing, and I look forward to hearing from the witnesses today.
"I yield back the balance of my time."