The Los Angeles Daily News Opinion: The continuing cost of the Trump Muslim ban

As a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, I see plenty of people trying to navigate our immigration system, some with more success than others. Not long ago, a Syrian-born client named Hasan attended a green-card interview at the United States Embassy in Rome alongside Sarah, his American wife. (I’ve changed both names to protect the couple’s privacy.) The pair live in Italy, where they have been in a loving relationship for six years and married for two. But Hasan had barely taken his seat at the green card interview before he was handed a letter stating that he was ineligible for a visa. When he and Sarah asked for an explanation, the immigration officer gave the brusque reply: “Google it.”

Two years after the Trump administration first sought to ban immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, experiences like Hasan’s and Sarah’s remain all too common.

Fortunately, there’s a potential solution in the offing: the No Ban Act, introduced last week Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, would repeal the Muslim Ban and safeguard against future abuses of presidential authority by limiting the executive branch’s ability to implement discriminatory policies in the future.

The ban doesn’t only discriminate, it also prevents hardworking people who would be huge contributors to the American economy from coming here. According to data obtained by Reuters, the United States last year refused 37,000 visa applications due to the Muslim ban, up from under 1,000 the year before. The total number of visas issued to people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen has fallen by 80 percent since 2016. And the ban doesn’t just hurt Muslim immigrants: it also impacts American citizens like Sarah.

That’s a personal tragedy for Sarah and Hasan, but it’s also a slow-moving economic disaster for the United States. A report from the bipartisan nonprofit New American Economy (NAE) found that immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are among the best educated and most productive members of U.S. society. Almost half of all MENA immigrants hold at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with less than a third of the overall U.S. population, and MENA immigrants are also much more likely than native-born Americans to gain degrees in STEM fields, acquiring the skills our employers so desperately need.

These immigrants are also key components to certain sectors. Foreign-born workers are absolutely integral to our burdened healthcare industry. Immigrants currently comprise 17 percent of America’s total healthcare workforce, including almost a quarter of all dentists and nearly 28 percent of doctors and surgeons. Iran and Syria, both affected by the Muslim ban, are among the top 10 countries that send physicians and surgeons to the United States, according to the Migration Policy Institute. According to the most recent available data, as of 2015, the U.S. was home to 14,000 physicians from Syria and Iran and almost 30,000 from across the MENA region.

For now, countless Americans like Sarah and would-be Americans like Hasan remain stranded outside the country, unsure of when or whether they’ll be able to come home to the United States to build a future together. That’s bad for them, but it’s bad for all of us here in America, too. As Americans, we must demand real and concrete action from our elected officials to repeal the Muslim ban. That’s the right thing to do, and it’s something that all of us should be able to get behind.

Farida Chehata is the immigrants’ rights managing attorney at the Los Angeles office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Read the full opinion piece at

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…