SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
President Biden signed an executive order to reverse what's been called the Muslim ban, signed by former President Trump, that banned travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. But some advocacy groups say that more work still needs to be done. Iman Awad is the deputy director of Emgage Action, a Muslim advocacy group in Washington, D.C. Thanks so much for joining us.
IMAN AWAD: Thank you for having me.
SIMON: You, I gather, agree that President Biden rescinding the order is a big step, but you don't believe enough.
AWAD: Absolutely. I do want to note the contrast between five years ago. Advocacy groups were in the midst of dealing with the fallout of the institution of the Muslim ban. We had a presidential candidate, then President Trump, calling for a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States, in contrast to President Joe Biden committing to repeal this on day one. The Muslim communities are thrilled that he upheld his promise to our community, but we need to recognize that more needs to be done, specifically through congressional action, to ensure that no future administration can abuse the presidential authorities we saw Donald Trump abuse.
SIMON: What would you like to see done?
AWAD: We would like to see the passage in both the House and the Senate of the NO BAN Act, which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act. Specifically, Code 212(f) was the authority used by Donald Trump to institute the Muslim ban. And we need to see Congress pass the NO BAN Act, amend the language in the Immigration and Nationality Act and provide better oversight and accountability moving forward.
SIMON: Help us understand that piece of legislation if you could.
AWAD: Absolutely. The Immigration and Nationality Act, as it stands, does not include any protections for discrimination based on religious affiliation. What the NO BAN Act does is amend that language to include that. Therefore, administrations moving forward would have - you know, they could not discriminate on national origin, sex and also including religion at this point if the NO BAN Act is passed. Furthermore, the legislation calls for more oversight by both Congress and also appropriate agencies to make sure any future travel ban is based off of credible facts.
SIMON: You - you've also said that an assessment of families who've been affected by the ban has to be done. What would that entail?
AWAD: That would entail recognition that there was a very deep human impact by this xenophobic ban Donald Trump instituted. There are tens of thousands of families separated, whether it's spouses, children, grandparents, aunts and uncles who were unable to visit, to immigrate. And even more nefarious was individuals and families fleeing from violence that were unable to seek asylum in this country. There needs to be an assessment that those people, who were denied their ability to come to the United States as an impact of the ban, are going to be expedited in process and, additionally, not charged any additional fees for being denied under the ban.
SIMON: I gather you believe there's a lot of damage that has to be repaired.
AWAD: There is. What we saw in 2020, with the pandemic and being unable to visit our loved ones - that was, you know, very similar to what these individuals felt on such a deeper level for four, now going on five, years with no clear indication on how they would be able to see and visit their families. And again, individuals, specifically from Yemen, who - there's no U.S. consulate in their country - traveling to Djibouti to get visas and having to travel back into danger. This is something that they've lived with for five years. And with the rescission by President Biden, the fight is not over because now we have a backlog of visas and families and people who need to be processed once again.
SIMON: Iman Awad is the deputy director of the Muslim advocacy group Emgage Action. Thank you so much for being with us.
AWAD: Thank you.
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