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What should British Muslims Expect When Travelling to America: Rights to Know About

One of the most eyebrow-raising promises put forward by Donald Trump during his run for the presidency was a commitment to keeping Muslims out of the country. In response to several high-profile attacks by jihadists, Trump took to a stage in South Carolina and called for a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.’

After securing a surprising victory, the president swiftly set about coming good on his pledge, which now takes the form of Executive Order 13769.

What’s the US Travel Ban?

The first version of the travel ban itself came into force in the same month Trump took office, in January 2017. It targeted not Muslims as a whole, but seven Muslim-majority countries in particular: specifically:

  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Syria
  • Yemen
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Libya

Defenders of the ban were quick to point out that this does not constitute a blanket prohibition on Muslims entering the united states. Moreover, many of the most populous Muslim-majority countries, like Indonesia and Pakistan, do not even feature on the list.

The ban was appealed, and struck down by the federal courts. It was revised to exclude Iraq from the list, and get rid of an attached ban on Syrian refugees. Both of these appeals were grounded in the idea that the ban was unconstitutional: it was designed explicitly to interfere with a person’s freedom of religion.

Then, the ban was altered for a third time, to include government officials from Venezuela, as well as citizens of Chad and North Korea. Subsequent data has revealed that the ban has resulted in drops in immigration from Muslim-majority countries – even those not covered by the travel ban. This points to a widespread (and understandable) reluctance on the part of the world’s Muslims to visit and stay in a country whose president believes them to be second-class citizens.

Will British Muslims have a problem?

You might assume that, since British Muslims don’t come from any of the countries listed, their rights will be respected. But this isn’t always the case. In February 2017, a welsh schoolteacher named Juhel Miah was forcibly ejected from a plane in Reykjavik, this despite the ban having been suspended the previous month. He was travelling with a party from Llangatwg comprehensive from Iceland to New York, but a ‘random security check’ saw him forced to stay overnight in Iceland and return home prematurely.

How can UK travellers protect their rights?

However carefully defined the law might be, the reality is that its purpose is inherently discriminatory. If you’re a Muslim travelling frequently between the UK and the US, or you’re intending to settle in the country, you’ll need expert legal representation to fight your battles. Specialised and experience immigration lawyers will surely help Muslims to contend with the US’s changing immigration laws, especially if these laws change once again following the 2020 elections.

Claire James

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