Man holds sign saying "Deport Iranians"

US House passes dangerously Islamophobic bill

More than 90 percent of the House of Representatives are supporting a bill that changes visa laws to effectively create two tiers of US citizens, Americans of Middle Eastern or Muslim background, and everyone else.

The bill, called the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act, puts restrictions on the visa waiver program, which until now allowed nationals of 38 countries to visit the U.S. for up to three months without a visa. Under the restrictions, dual nationals of certain countries (“certain” obviously meaning Muslim and of color — Iraq, Syria, Iran and Sudan for now) and recent visitors to those countries (presumably folks with ancestry of that country so also Muslim and of color) would be banned from using the visa waiver program. As Alex Shams wrote this week:

Because the current visa-free travel regime is based on the principle of reciprocity (i.e. Europe allows visa-free travel because the US allows visa-free travel), such a move — which means the US would recognize two classes of European citizens with different travel rights and privileges — would thereby push the affected countries to do the same vis-a-vis US citizens. In effect, the bill would create a second class of US citizens as well, encompassing Iranian-Americans, Iraqi-Americans, Syrian-Americans, and Sudanese-Americans, or any person with sole US citizenship but who had visited any of those countries in the past 5 years.

The bill has passed the House and is moving on the Senate. Terrifyingly enough, the bill gets done what—as Reina wrote this week—white liberals have scapegoated Trump for suggesting: it comes one step closer to banning Muslims from this country and strips those already here of rights otherwise guaranteed to other Americans. We (especially as feminists) know all too well “what it means when Americans are legislated to be unequal in the eyes of the law.” As Trita Parsi notes for the Huffington Post: “this is discriminatory, it is draconian, and it is a dangerous slippery slope.”

Shams adds:

Although the legislation is technically focused on travel, by creating two-tier citizenship it creates a precedent for wide-ranging action, explicitly legitimizing a discriminatory system that could massively erode civil rights on a much wider scale, for a much broader range of people in this country. If HR 158 passes, the consequences for millions of Americans — especially other Middle Eastern or predominantly Muslim communities, but for people of color and those of immigrant origin in general — are grave.

Read the rest of the Shams’ piece here. And share this Brooklyn comedian’s Facebook campaign to stop the bill here.

Header Image Credit: Huff Post

Mahroh Jahangiri is the former Executive Director of Know Your IX, a national survivor- and youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools. She cares about the ways in which American militarization, racism, and sexual violence impact communities of color transnationally. You can say hi to her at @mahrohj.

Mahroh Jahangiri is the former Executive Director of Know Your IX, a national survivor- and youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools.

Read more about Mahroh

Join the Conversation