House passes bill to repeal Trump’s travel ban

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before leaving the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on Oct. 10, 2019. U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he hopes to mediate between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds, and also threatened to punish Turkey if its offensive in northeast Syria goes beyond limits. (Photo by Ting Shen/Xinhua)
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By Camila DeChalus CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — The House passed a measure Wednesday that would repeal the Trump administration’s ban restricting travel from targeted nations and prohibit future presidents from implementing bans based on race or religion.

The measure passed 233-183, mainly along party lines. The legislation would lift restrictions President Donald Trump has put on numerous countries over the years, including travel limits initially placed on a group of predominantly Muslim nations.

The measure also would expand the Immigration and Nationality Act to prohibit discrimination based on religion. The bill is not expected to advance in the Republican-led Senate, however.

“Today, almost three and a half years to the day after President Trump issued his first Muslim Ban, the House of Representatives voted to put us on the right side of history by repealing it completely,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., said in a statement. “This ban never had anything to do with national security; it was always driven by prejudice.”

Prior to the vote, Democrats criticized the travel ban as “dangerous” and said it went against fundamental U.S. values.

“We must ensure that our country is open to everyone, not just those Trump deems acceptable,” Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said on the House floor.

The bill was widely opposed by Republicans, many of whom denounced Democratic lawmakers for calling Trump’s travel restrictions a “Muslim ban.”

“This is not a Muslim ban. This is a legitimate travel restriction implemented for the safety of this nation,” Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said on the House floor.

Trump first placed travel restrictions on a group of predominantly Muslim nations as one of his first presidential acts after he took office in 2017. In an executive order, he prohibited visas for anyone traveling from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Iraq also was on the initial group of nations banned but was later removed. North Korea and political officials from Venezuela were added to the list of nations months later.

The most recent update of the restrictions, announced in a proclamation that took effect on Feb. 22, suspended immigrant visas from Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria and Myanmar. The decree also barred Sudan and Tanzania from participating in the diversity visa lottery program, which annually allocates 50,000 green cards at random to countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

Trump argued national security needs warranted the travel ban, which has drawn ire from immigration groups and civil rights organizations who said it was intentionally designed to keep out citizens from predominantly Muslim countries.

Several federal courts tried to block the ban, but in 2018 the Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that Trump had a sufficient national security justification for a policy that on its face “says nothing about religion.”

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