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News & Resources

Our Response to the Muslim Ban

On January 27, 2017, the Trump administration signed an unprecedented executive order temporarily freezing the refugee program and banning people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States into action. Amidst global disbelief, uncertainty, and fear, the staff and volunteers at the International Refugee Assistance Project immediately sprung into action.

The result: a historic movement that energized thousands around the world to stand up for refugees and established a blueprint for how to effectively and strategically fight back against unchecked executive power.

The Muslim ban was only the first of a string of policies aimed at keeping refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants out of the country. Together, we continue to utilize every tool — through the courts, through civic action and protest, through our contacts with allies on both sides of the aisle, through the media, and through a self-organized volunteer network — to work tirelessly to fight the Trump administration’s entry bans.

On January 20, 2021, newly inaugurated President Biden rescinded the Muslim and the subsequent African bans.

On January 25, 2017, two days prior to the signing of the damaging executive order and in anticipation of likely chaos at all points of entry to the United States, we sent out an urgent call to action to all of our affiliated lawyers and their networks. We organized a task force of pro bono lawyers at numerous international airports across the country to defend the rights of incoming refugees and immigrants. Over 1,600 volunteers responded to our call within less than 24 hours. When the order went into effect in the late afternoon on Friday, January 27, we were ready.

Read about the efforts in The New York Times and New York Magazine.

Through this action, IRAP was able to:

  • Seize control of the international narrative by demonstrating the chaos and discrimination behind the executive order and its implementation (It was this narrative that carried the news for three full days following the order, leading to Congressional protests and hearings and an internal investigation of the Department of Homeland Security.);
  • Start a movement by mobilizing lawyers and volunteers at airports, who became self-organizing, with regional networks around the country that provide individual legal representation and advocate with airlines and local governments.

In response to the original executive order, IRAP became involved in two lawsuits to challenge the Muslim ban and protect the rights of our clients and other refugees and immigrants, while simultaneously proving that executive power can be checked.

Learn more about the latest status of these lawsuits and our wider litigation efforts:

IRAP has worked with our congressional allies, faith-based and other communities, and veterans to fight back against the Muslim and African bans and their harmful effects. In the United States, we have:

  • Supported congressional efforts such as the No Ban Act to ensure that discriminatory policies like the Muslim ban may never be issued again by any future administrations;
  • Advocated for transparency and accountability in the visa waiver process; and
  • Highlighted the negative impact of the Muslim ban on refugee resettlement and family reunification.

In addition to our work in the United States, we have proactively reached out to other governments and international partners to explore alternative solutions for our clients in other safe, third countries.

We will continue our work to provide safe passage for refugees and to fight back against all iterations of the Muslim ban and similar entry bans, by:

  • Continuing to challenge unconstitutional and discriminatory policies toward refugees and asylum seekers in court;
  • Expanding our policy advocacy and communications work to bring non-traditional voices to the forefront of the fight for refugee rights;
  • Identifying and utilizing complementary pathways to safety in addition to existing resettlement programs; and
  • Holding governments accountable to follow through on their promises.