Access to Counsel Act and NO BAN Act offer protections from chaotic and discriminatory travel bans
May 29, 2021 - WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), chair of the Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee, and Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced a pair of bills to prevent future Muslim bans and safeguard rights for those with legal status in the United States. Both bills were originally introduced in 2017 as a direct response to President Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban, which separated families and unleashed chaos at airports across the country as people from seven Muslim-majority countries were detained for hours without food or water before being deported. Some individuals were pressured to sign papers giving up their legal status. In many cases, these individuals had no opportunity to see an attorney or even call anyone for legal guidance. In California airports—including SFO and LAX—people were held up and separated because of President Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban.
(Left) Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.)
The Access to Counsel Act, led by Padilla and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), ensures that U.S. citizens, green card holders, and others with valid visas are able to consult with an attorney, family member, or other interested party to seek assistance if they are detained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at airports or other ports of entry.
The National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants (NO BAN) Act, led by Coons and Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Calif.), prevents future Muslim bans by strengthening the Immigration and Nationality Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion, and restores the separation of powers by ensuring that any future travel bans are narrowly tailored and follow appropriate consultation with Congress.
“We cannot deny the fundamental right to counsel to those who have a legal right to be in the United States, but are detained by Customs and Border Protection,” said Senator Padilla. “And no President should have the power to ban travel to the United States based solely on religion or country of origin. Sadly, that’s exactly what we witnessed during the Trump administration. We must pass the Access to Counsel Act and NO BAN Act to ensure there are safeguards in place so these types of xenophobic and hateful abuses of power never happen again.”
“The Muslim ban senselessly upended lives – separating thousands of Americans from their families and stripping fundamental protections from those with every right to be in the United States,” said Senator Coons. “We’ve turned the page on this hateful policy, but we must ensure that no president can ever again act through fear and prejudice to discriminate based on religion or nationality. The NO BAN Act and Access to Counsel Act establish new guardrails to ensure our immigration policies are rooted in our values, not in fear.”
“Former President Trump’s immigration policies focused on misguided and discriminatory efforts, like his Muslim travel ban,” said Senator Durbin, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I’m proud to join Sen. Padilla and Sen. Coons in introducing the Access to Counsel Act and the NO BAN Act. Repairing our broken immigration system and reversing the previous administration’s legacy of intolerance remain among my top priorities in Congress. The House has passed these bills. The Senate should now do the same.”
“After years of policies designed to intentionally hurt immigrants, I’m so grateful that the Senate today is taking such significant steps to ensure we are a country that lives up to our values,” said Congresswoman Chu. “The cruel Muslim Ban was a policy that had no merit or justification, but had the effect of spreading xenophobia and tearing families apart. Fortunately, President Biden rescinded this ban on his first day in office, but we cannot risk another President misusing this authority to put prejudice into policy. That is why I am so pleased Senator Coons is reintroducing our NO BAN Act which will change the law so to prevent any future religious bans. I also want to thank Senator Padilla for introducing the Access to Counsel Act which guarantees that those who have a legal right to be here have access to lawyers when detained at the border. I’m proud that both of these bills passed the House and I hope that the Senate will act on them soon.”
“The need for the Access to Counsel Act was on full display during four cruel years of a xenophobic Trump Administration carelessly stripping civil rights and civil liberties away from individuals because of the color of their skin, their religion, the language they speak, or their country of origin,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “I am grateful that Senators Padilla and Coons are introducing this measure alongside the NO BAN Act as we continue the work necessary to reverse the damage done, build a humane immigration system, and ensure that Trump’s policies of maximum harm are never again inflicted on immigrants.”
“The Muslim Ban may have been rescinded but there is still much more work we must do to roll back the previous administration’s cruel war on immigrants,” said Farhana Khera, Executive Director of Muslim Advocates. “The Muslim Ban separated families, put lives on hold for years and labeled Muslims, Africans and other people as threatening outsiders. We must pass the NO BAN Act to ensure that no future president can do this again. Further, we must pass the Access to Counsel Act to ensure that U.S. citizens and Green Card holders have access to important legal guidance when detained at ports of entry. I want to thank Sen. Coons and Sen. Padilla for their leadership on these bills and for their tireless work to protect the rights and dignity of Muslims and all people targeted by anti-immigrant policies.”
Padilla’s Access to Counsel Act is cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Coons, Durbin, Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.).
Coons’ NO BAN Act is cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Padilla, Durbin, Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai’i), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Angus King (I-Maine), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
The Access to Counsel Act has received endorsements from America’s Voice, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Church World Service, Community Change Action, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Families Belong Together, HIAS, Human Rights Watch, Immigration Equality Action Fund, Kids in Need of Defense, Muslim Advocates, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Iranian American Council Action, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, National Partnership for New Americans, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, United We Dream, Asian Counseling and Referral Service, Brooklyn Defender Services, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), Entre Hermanos, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and OneAmerica.
The NO BAN Act has received endorsements from over 400 immigrants’ rights organizations, faith-based organizations, and civil rights organizations, including Muslim Advocates, National Immigration Law Center, Immigration Hub, Interfaith Immigration Coalition, Shoulder to Shoulder, Brennan Center for Justice, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Franciscan Action Network, Church World Service, Human Rights Campaign, American Civil Liberties Union, Asian Americans Advancing Justice Association, The Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, National Iranian American Council Action, Jewish and Muslims and Allies Acting Together, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, HIAS, National Council of Jewish Women, Bend the Arc, International Refugee Assistance Project, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Engage Action, Airbnb, Center for American Progress, and Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees. A letter in support of the bill’s passage in the House of Representatives is available here.
The House of Representatives passed the Access to Counsel Act and the NO BAN Act in April.
Bill text for Access to Counsel Act can be found here.
Bill text for NO BAN Act can be found here.
Source: Senator Alex Padilla