WASHINGTON – Democrats plan to vote on a bill in coming weeks that would strike down President Donald Trump’s travel ban and curb his authority to impede travel to the United States, even as the president is planning to add new countries to the list.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced Monday that Congress intends to address the issue, putting out a statement on the third anniversary of Trump’s initial travel ban, which barred visitors from several mostly Muslim nations. Trump issued three versions of the travel ban, starting in January 2017, instigating legal challenges and claims that the policy amounts to religious-based discrimination. Federal court judges halted the bans before the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly let the restrictions stand.

Democrats in both the House and Senate filed the “NO BAN Act” last year to revoke Trump’s policy and an administration move to significantly limit asylum claims at the southern border with Mexico. The measure would allow the president to restrict travel into the United States, but it would require the U.S. government to provide specific evidence of threats to national security or public safety before imposing any restrictions. The measure also would generally prohibit discrimination based on religion or national origin.

The bill could have a chance at passage in the Democrat-led House, but it is unlikely to get past the Republican-dominated Senate. Democrats hope it reignites public debate about an issue that has affected thousands of U.S. citizens and green-card holders who have been separated from their families, including spouses and children.

While Trump has wielded his broad powers over immigration in attempts to block unauthorized entry into the United States, he also has targeted legal travel into the country, restricting access to a growing swath of foreigners. After historic highs, unauthorized border crossings of asylum-seeking families have been falling, refugee admissions have bottomed out, and even travel to Disneyland or professional conferences is becoming more difficult. The White House last week added another restriction to its list, saying it would direct consular officers to deny entry to women who might come to the United States to give birth and claim automatic citizenship for their children – a move advocates say discriminates against women.

Trump is considering extending the travel ban to additional countries, saying last Wednesday that it a “very powerful ban.” The ban currently bars all immigrant and most temporary forms of travel to the United States for nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and North Korea, as well as certain temporary travel for some Venezuelan government officials.


“We have to be safe. Our country has to be safe. You see what’s going on in the world,” Trump told reporters last week at a news conference in Davos. “So we have a very strong travel ban, and we’ll be adding a few countries to it.”

Trump would not say which countries he plans to add to the list, but said “it’s going to be announced very shortly.”

The Trump administration has denied that the travel ban is discriminatory, defending the president’s orders and other rulemaking as necessary to protect national security and to prevent foreigners from exploiting U.S. immigration laws. While the Supreme Court upheld the travel ban, U.S. citizens and green-card holders who have been affected by it are still fighting the policy in court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond is expected to hear arguments in three cases on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

Nationals of the seven countries the ban now covers can apply for waivers, and thousands have been issued, but thousands also have been barred from entry.

Others have questioned the effectiveness of Trump’s efforts to protect national security. Officials recently kicked out 21 Saudi military trainees after authorities said their colleague shot and killed three sailors and injured eight others in December at a Naval Base in Pensacola.

Attorney General William Barr has called the shooting “an act of terror” and said that the “evidence shows that the shooter was motivated by jihadist ideology.” One piece of that evidence was a social media post on the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks saying “the countdown has begun.”


On the day Trump confirmed that he would expand the travel ban, Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; Rick Scott, R-Fla.; and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., sent a letter to acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf asking how the shooter received a visa to participate in military training in the United States.

Democratic lawmakers and civil rights and religious leaders gathered Monday outside the Capitol to commemorate the “somber” anniversary of the travel ban and urged their colleagues to pass the No Ban Act and clear the way for U.S. citizens to reunite with their loved ones.

Rep. André Carson, D-Ind., who was the second Muslim ever elected to Congress, referred to the ban as “the cornerstone” of Trump’s “white nationalist agenda.” Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. – a Muslim and a refugee from Somalia’s civil war – welcomed the House vote on the No Ban Act, but said it would take years to recover from the damage it has wrought on families and the U.S. government’s image around the world.

“Even when we get this Muslim ban overturned, this fight doesn’t end, because these policies, long after they are gone, will have left a stain,” Omar said. “And that stain is going to be in the hearts and minds of so many people.”

Several lawmakers and activists likened Trump’s policy to the United States’ refusal to grant asylum to thousands of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, and the Trump administration’s more recent policy of separating thousands of children from their parents seeking asylum at the U.S. border with Mexico to deter unauthorized immigration.

“Most Americans believe that family separation policy has ended. It has not,” said Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Conn. “It has not only not ended, but there are thousands of American families who because of the so-called Muslim ban continue to be separated today.”

Among them are Danah Harbi, an optometrist who lives in Virginia. She said she plans to leave the United States to join her fiance, a Syrian refugee who fled to Lebanon.

“Because of the Muslim ban, my own fiance is banned from traveling to me,” Harbi said. “I was born in Alexandria, Virginia. I’m a homeowner, a taxpayer, an American citizen and the caretaker of my ill mother. I shouldn’t have to leave my job and my entire life to be with family. But that’s the reality for me and the thousands of other American families who are separated because of this cruel Muslim ban.”