President Joseph Biden signed the Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to The United States (“Proclamation Ending Discriminatory Bans”) during his first hours in office, terminating the controversial Muslim Ban and its sequel, the Africa Ban.
The Muslim Ban was based on an Executive Order (EO) that former President Donald Trump signed almost four years ago during his first days in office. Litigation around that Executive Order kept the Muslim Ban from going into effect until June 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban in a 5-4 vote. The new Proclamation Ending Discriminatory Bans also will terminate some previously instituted proclamations regarding extreme vetting.
The Muslim Ban affected individuals from seven countries: Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. While there were some exceptions, the EO basically blocked entry of citizens from those countries as immigrants or nonimmigrants. (Venezuela’s ban was directed solely at government officials and their family members.) Although waivers were available, almost 75% of all waiver requests reportedly were denied. The Africa Ban, issued in early 2020, blocked individuals applying for immigrant visas from Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, and Nigeria and individuals applying for Diversity Visas from Sudan and Tanzania.
The Proclamation Ending Discriminatory Bans does not affect other travel restrictions related to COVID-19, including the Presidential Proclamations blocking the entry for immigrants and certain nonimmigrants due to economic conditions brought on by COVID-19. The Presidential Proclamations related to travel restrictions from the UK, EU, and certain other countries due to COVID-19 contagion concerns will also remain in effect, notwithstanding the Trump administration’s indications that these would be withdrawn as of January 26, 2021.
Under the new Proclamation Ending Discriminatory Bans, the Department of State (DOS) will provide a proposal for how to reconsider applications denied based on now-suspended restrictions, a plan for adjudicating pending waiver requests, and recommendations on how to improve the vetting and screening process, including an assessment of the benefits of using social media identifiers in that process, among other things.
If you have any questions regarding the web of travel restrictions terminated and those still in effect, please reach out to your Jackson Lewis attorney.