Muslim and civil rights groups and their supporters gather at a rally against what they call a "Muslim ban" in Washington, on Oct. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Tech companies join Muslim groups in support of historic bill to end travel ban

(RNS) — Ahead of a congressional hearing this week on the Trump administration’s travel ban, more than a dozen leading technology companies, including Twitter and Airbnb, have thrown their support behind a congressional bill to end the controversial measure.

“As a platform that connects people from all walks of life, to the tastes, scents and goods that power our communities, the Muslim Ban goes against America’s core values and risks undermining neighborhood prosperity,” said Vikrum Aiyer, vice president of global public policy at Postmates, a popular local food delivery company.

The hearing, scheduled for Tuesday (Sept. 24), held jointly by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, is expected to discuss the impact of the ban on Muslim families, as well as the NO BAN Act, a bicameral bill to end the ban.

President Trump issued the first version of his executive order banning entry from seven Muslim-majority countries in 2017, shortly after taking office. After being blocked in lower federal courts, revised and blocked again, a divided Supreme Court upheld a version of the ban last year.

In a letter endorsing the no-ban bill, 13 corporations — Twitter, Pinterest, Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, Spotify, Slack, Postmates, Upwork, Remitly, Okta, Thumbtack and Eventbrite — noted that the ban has hurt their ability to conduct business across borders and hire top talent.

“With the ban in place, it is more difficult for companies to conduct business in the United States,” the companies wrote in a letter to Sen. Chris Coons and Rep. Judy Chu, who sponsored versions of the bill in the House and Senate.

“Additionally, the ban hurts America’s global reputation and separates families," they wrote. "The ban not only limits our ability to prosper, but also undermines America’s core value: inclusivity.”

The bill has also been endorsed by a coalition of more than 400 civil rights, faith-based and community groups, including Church World Service, Amnesty International USA, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), T'ruah, Jewish Voice for Peace, National Sikh Campaign and other groups.

“Regrettably, the Muslim Ban validates the worst stereotypes about Muslims; that they are inherently foreign and violent and pose such a threat to the United States they should be banned,” the coalition wrote in an open letter to members of Congress. “Congress now has an opportunity to take action against the Muslim Ban and this troubling history by sending a strong message that our nation rejects religious bigotry.”

If passed, the bill would be the first legislation to focus specifically on Muslims’ rights. This week’s hearing is only the second time Congress has held a proceeding on the rights of Muslims. (In 2011, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin chaired a hearing focused on rising anti-Muslim bigotry and Muslims’ civil rights.)

The bill has 170 co-sponsors in the House and 34 in the Senate, all Democrats.

But Muslim activists noted that nearly 70 House Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have not signed on to the bill.

“As one of the defining moments for Muslim Americans over the last few years, the Muslim Ban has been the source of unnecessary hardship for hundreds of parents, children, and families that have been separated from their loved ones,” said Wa’el Alzayat, head of Muslim advocacy group Emgage, calling on the remaining House Democrats to sponsor the NO BAN Act.

Witnesses scheduled to testify at the hearing about the ban’s personal impact on their families include Ismail Alghazali, a U.S. citizen who works in a Brooklyn bodega while his wife and young children are stuck in Yemen; and Abdollah Dehzangi, a Morgan State University professor and U.S. permanent resident who is separated from his wife even though she secured a U.S. job as a researcher.

Expert witnesses include Andrew Arthur of the Center for Immigration Studies, as well as Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, which has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of Alghazali and dozens of other families that have been denied immigration waivers under the ban.

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