Floor Speech in Support of H.R. 1333, the NO BAN Act, and H.R. 1573, the Access to Counsel Act of 2021
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 1333, the NO BAN Act, and H.R. 1573, the Access to Counsel Act of 2021. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Madam Speaker. I thank the distinguished Chairman for yielding and for his leadership. What a busy time for the Judiciary Committee, for bringing two bills to the Floor today and all the work that went into it and your leadership, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, here we are under the gaze of our patriarch, George Washington, right there in this chamber. Two hundred and thirty years ago our patriarch, George Washington, who watches over us in this chamber, famously wrote to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island. In that letter, he made a promise that would be our nation's guide for centuries to come.
He wrote, ‘All possess liberty of conscience…it is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.’ He went on to say, ‘For happily the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.’
Today, by passing the NO BAN Act, the House is upholding that fundamental promise – ‘to bigotry, no sanction’ – by taking action to ensure that no president or administration can ever again abuse its authority by waging discrimination on the basis of religion.
Thank you to Chair Judy Chu of CAPAC, our sponsor of this legislation and a national champion in combating discrimination and xenophobia, who has helped lead the Congress's response to recent anti-AAPI attacks.
The NO BAN Act strengthens the Immigration and Nationality Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion. And it restores the separation of powers by limiting overly broad executive action to [issue] future religious bans, which are fundamentally un-American.
As Justice Sotomayor wrote, echoing President Washington, in her dissent in the shameful Trump v. Hawaii Supreme Court case, upholding the last Administration's Muslim ban – she wrote, ‘The United States of America is a Nation built upon the promise of religious liberty. Our Founders honored that core promise by embedding the principle of religious neutrality in the First Amendment. The Court’s decision [to uphold the Muslim ban] fails to safeguard that fundamental principle.’
I just wanted to just mention this. When this happened four years ago, and the President came and did his Muslim ban legislation, we had a hearing. It wasn't an official hearing because we weren't in the Majority, and the Majority wasn't interested in having a hearing. But we had a hearing about it. And what we saw in that hearing was to see leaders of the security community saying, ‘If this stays in place, it's going to hurt our national security because we will not be able to make promises – keep promises that we made to those who helped us in Afghanistan and Iraq. We won't be able to, because many of them are Muslim.’
A thousand diplomats from the State Department signed – this is highly unusual – signed on to their opposition for what this did to us diplomatically in the world. Our men and women in uniform spoke – rank-and-file men and women – spoke directly to the problem this would create, the danger it created in people testing our word when we asked them to help us and that we will help keep them safe.
And you’ve – you heard me quote, again and again, in that same hearing, because many of the people who come here for asylum and refugee status because of religious persecution where they are from – the Association of Evangelicals testified the following: ‘the United States refugee resettlement program is the crown jewel of American humanitarianism.’ They were speaking in terms of religious refugees. So again, we cannot allow any president to abuse the power of his or her office in this regard.
If I may, Madam Speaker, I'd like to also address another piece of legislation – thank you, Mr. Chairman – that you are bringing to the floor: the Access to Counsel Act, protecting the civil liberties of those who face prolonged detention as they seek legal entry into the United States – some of them little children.
This is a commonsense step to close a serious and dangerous gap in our immigration law that too often prevents the vulnerable from accessing not only legal counsel, but also medical attention or contact with their families. I'm always proud to salute Representative Pramila Jayapal, the sponsor of the Access to Counsel Act and a champion for the dignity and rights of all newcomers to our nation – in fact, everyone in our nation. Thank you, Congresswoman Jayapal.
Passage of these bills, that both are on the Floor – the NO BAN bill and the Access to Counsel bill – should not be controversial. Over 400 immigrants’ rights organizations, faith based organizations, business groups and civil rights organizations support the NO BAN Act. And many more support the Access to Counsel Act. These are bills that are about honoring our nation's promise that, as President Washington said, we will give ‘to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.’
With that, I urge a strong vote for both of these bills, honoring the vision of our Founders and the aspirations of so many people in our country.
Thank you, Madam Speaker. I yield back.