October 06, 2020

Hirono, Booker, Markey, Sanders Announce Neighbors Not Enemies Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) released the Neighbors Not Enemies Act, legislation that repeals the Alien Enemies Act of 1798. 

Originally part of four laws known as the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Alien Enemies Act is only one of the four that remains in effect. The Alien Enemies Act allows the president to target foreign nationals of a specific country to be “apprehended, restrained, secured and removed” without due process while America is at war. During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt used this law to target, incarcerate, and deport Japanese, German, and Italian Americans. In 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump referenced the Alien Enemies Act during the election as justification for his Muslim Ban.

“Time and again, Donald Trump has demonized immigrants and minorities as the divider-in-chief. Our nation has not always been fair to immigrants and minorities, but we have a rich diversity—and the stories of immigrants and minorities are interwoven in our country’s history. The Neighbors Not Enemies Act would repeal an outdated and offensive law and stop any president from ordering a wrongful action that goes against the Bill of Rights,” Senator Hirono said. 

“It is long past time we repeal the Alien Enemies Act of 1798, a law that Donald Trump has channeled as justification for his racist Muslim ban. Until this wrongheaded law is repealed, it will remain ripe for exploitation by others who seek to advance their own racist, and xenophobic beliefs. We must learn from our past in order to create a more humane and just immigration future. I am proud to co-sponsor the Neighbor Not Enemies Act and to begin to right these past wrongs,” Senator Markey said.

The legislation was introduced in the House by Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).

“This outdated and xenophobic law is an offense to our values as a nation, which should stand as a refuge for those fleeing violence and persecution,” Rep. Omar said. “It is a perfect example of outdated immigration laws that are being exploited and abused by this Administration. As the President seeks to expand the Muslim Ban, we must close policy loopholes that he can exploit to cause harm to our neighbors, our country and the values that we hold dear. We must learn from historical mistakes built on fear of the other and embrace a fair and just immigration system by repealing the Alien Enemies Act.”

"JACL thanks Sen. Hirono and Rep. Omar for their leadership on the Neighbors Not Enemies Act. It is past time for the repeal of this antiquated law which has been abused to justify the incarceration of Japanese Americans and more recently the Muslim Ban. As we have seen, the courts have been overly deferential to Presidential claims of necessity due to national security, both in 1944 and 2018. It is up to Congress to place a check on the overreaching power of the President and act where the courts have failed the people,” David Inoue, Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League said. 

“The so-called Alien Enemies Act was wrong when it was passed in 1798 and it’s still wrong now. That antiquated law was used to justify, among other things, discrimination against people in America, particularly Japanese immigrants. It must not be used to support Trump’s misguided Muslim travel ban. We urge Congress to pass the Neighbors Not Enemies Act and remove this vestige of xenophobia from our laws,” Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said.

The bill has been endorsed by the Japanese American Citizens League, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, National Iranian American Council Action, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, Minnesota Peace Project, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Defending Rights & Dissent, Muslim Public Affairs Council, and Church World Service, UndocuBlack Network, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (RISE), International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), The Sikh Coalition, National Immigration Law Center, Project South, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, Shoulder to Shoulder, Veterans For Peace chapter 27, Coalition on Human Needs, Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC), and the Conference of Presentation Sisters. 

Bill text of the Neighbors Not Enemies Act is available here

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