Representative Pramila Jayapal is aiming to protect the religious freedom of immigrants with a bill reintroduced in Congress on Thursday.
Jayapal introduced the Freedom of Religion Act in the House of Representatives with seven other Democratic Congress members. The bill would make it illegal to ban immigrants, refugees, and international visitors from entry to the U.S. on the basis of their religion. The bill comes days after president Donald Trump issued an executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations and said the U.S. would prioritize Christian refugees over Muslims.
“This is not just an act of resistance against xenophobic policies, but a clear signal to President Trump that we will not let him destroy our Constitution and our American values,” Jayapal said in a statement about the Freedom of Religion Act.
The bill was first introduced in 2016 by Democrat representative Donald Beyer, of Virginia, but Congress members wanted another leader who has stood up for immigrant rights to take the bill into the 2017 session, said Omer Farooque, Jayapal’s communication director. That was when Farooque said they asked Jayapal to reintroduce it.
He said after Trump’s actions against immigration from Muslim-majority nations, the Freedom of Religion Act would send a message to the president that Jayapal and other members of Congress were not going to sit on the sidelines and let him “defy the Constitution.”
“No matter what anyone says, [Trump’s] immigration ban is a Muslim ban,” Farooque said. “This bill will protect them and their religious rights.”
The Freedom of Religion Act is also being supported by the American Civil Liberties Union and Khizr Khan, a Gold Star father who was thrown into the national spotlight after calling out Trump for not adhering to the Constitution in a speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
“The only way to deal with this clown show that is taking place in the White House, which is violating the basic decency of America, is through challenges from Congress,” Khan said in a statement about the Freedom of Region Act. “[His] way of governing is alienating Muslims in the United States and around the world.”
Khan immigrated to the U.S. from the United Arab Emirates with his wife, Ghazala Khan, in 1980. Their son, U.S. Army captain Humayun Khan, was killed in Iraq in 2004.
Farooque said while it’s too early to see what kind of opposition the bill will face by Republicans in Congress, the Freedom of Religion Act is not an “end all be all” and is a starting point for Jayapal and other members of Congress to fight Trump’s orders against specific religions and minorities if it is passed.
“We can’t let this president force his authoritarian agenda on us,” Jayapal said.