New Analysis, Lawsuit, Letter: Muslim Bans, Extreme Vetting Policies Unnecessary, Harmful, and Opaque

October 3, 2017

New York, N.Y. –  The White House’s new iteration of its “Muslim ban” and the administration’s use of “extreme vetting” for certain visa applicants is part of President Trump’s overall strategy for closing off the country, especially to Muslims. These efforts are discriminatory, will not enhance national security, and harm all Americans, according to a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law: Extreme Vetting and the Muslim Ban.

The Brennan Center also filed a lawsuit today to compel the U.S. State Department to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and release reports submitted to President Trump, which the administration claims were used to determine which countries to blacklist. Covington and Burling and Muslim Advocates assisted in the filing of this lawsuit, and also filed suit challenging the most recent version of the ban, in collaboration with the National Iranian-American Council.

In addition, the Center and nearly 50 other civil liberties organizations sent a letter today to the U.S. State Department expressing serious concern about its proposed implementation of additional vetting procedures.

Extreme Vetting and the Muslim Ban identifies three key failings of Trump’s travel and vetting policy:

  • It will not enhance national security. The report surveys existing visa vetting procedures, demonstrating that the United States has one of the most rigorous systems in the world. The U.S. intensively screens individuals seeking to travel to the country, with a close focus on national security concerns. The fact is that domestic attacks by foreign terrorists are exceedingly rare in the post 9/11 era.
     
  • It is discriminatory. Trump has explicitly targeted Muslims, using both bans and burdensome new screening requirements. The latest iteration of the ban attempts to launder the religious animus that characterized the previous policies and campaign promises. The State Department’s new visa screening procedures seem designed to facilitate religious and ideological profiling. This risk is only exacerbated by their increasing emphasis on unproven methodologies that rely on collecting and monitoring social media information.
     
  • It is harmful to all Americans. The costs of extreme vetting spread far beyond the people directly affected. Historically, tighter travel restrictions result in widespread economic harms stemming from decreases in business, tourism, and education-related travel. Already, the U.S. Commerce Department has reported a drop of almost 700,000 visitors in the first quarter of 2017, with the largest drops from the Middle East and Africa. Extreme vetting also comes at a cost to American values. It deals a devastating blow to America’s reputation as a nation of immigrants committed to freedom of religion and nondiscrimination.

“The Trump administration either doesn’t realize, or doesn’t want to admit, that the U.S. already has one of the strictest vetting regimes in the world for visitors,” said Faiza Patel, co-director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty & National Security Program. “Adding North Korea to the list of banned countries does nothing to change the fact that the ban and extreme vetting are not geared towards filling any kind of security gap. Instead – as the president’s own words make clear – these policies aim to stop Muslims from coming to the U.S. at all, which is both illegal and contrary to fundamental American values.”

"The administration has enacted a new, indefinite Muslim ban without providing any clarity or transparency about the underlying 'worldwide review process' it has ostensibly undertaken," said Sirine Shebaya, senior staff attorney for Muslim Advocates. "We have not been provided with any information that could allow the public to assess the purported national security justification for the ban – a justification that we do not believe exists. In light of the harm this ban is doing to millions of people worldwide, the least the administration can do is release the report they believe justifies such a drastic and discriminatory measure."

The Brennan Center will host a public event, ‘Extreme Vetting and the Muslim Ban,’ on October 11 in New York City. Click here for details.

Read the full report, Extreme Vetting and the Muslim Ban.

Read the Center’s lawsuit and related FOIA request, and letter to the U.S. State Department.

Read more about the Brennan Center’s work on Liberty & National Security.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Naren Daniel at (646) 292-8381 or naren.daniel@nyu.edu