Among the flurry of executive orders signed by President Joe Biden on Wednesday was one ending the ban on travelers from several majority-Muslim countries, which was first issued by Donald Trump in January 2017.
“Beyond contravening our values, these Executive Orders and Proclamations have undermined our national security,” Biden’s executive order rescinding the ban reads. “They have jeopardized our global network of alliances and partnerships and are a moral blight that has dulled the power of our example the world over. And they have separated loved ones, inflicting pain that will ripple for years to come. They are just plain wrong.”
Instead of a ban, the White House says it will improve the screening of visitors by strengthening information sharing with foreign governments and other measures.
The so-called Muslim ban went through multiple iterations before it was finally upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018. The original ban affected refugees from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
But the list of countries changed over the course of a protracted court battle that wound all the way to the Supreme Court. While the high court allowed the order to take effect in December 2017, the legal fight didn’t end until the following June. By then, the list consisted of five majority-Muslim countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen – and two that are not: North Korea and Venezuela.
Last January, the Trump administration added six new countries – Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan and Tanzania – to its list of restricted countries.
Within 120 days, Biden said he wanted his secretary of state and Homeland Security director to provide a review of current vetting procedures and information-sharing along with recommendations for revising them.
Biden also ordered that the State Department resume processing visa applications and that within 45 days, the secretary of state provide him with a report outlining the number of visa applicants being considered for a waiver when the Trump order was signed; plans for “expeditiously adjudicating” their pending visa applications; the reconsideration of those whose applications were denied; and a way to ensure that cases of those who reapply are not prejudiced as a result of a previous visa denial.
“Make no mistake, where there are threats to our Nation, we will address them,” Biden’s order stated. “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.”
Contributing: Richard Wolf