Rep. Omar Reintroduces the Neighbors Not Enemies Act

June 1, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON—Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) reintroduced the Neighbors Not Enemies Act, which fully repeals the Alien Enemies Act of 1798. The “Alien and Sedition Acts” were a set of four bills targeting immigrants under the guise of war. While three of the acts have since expired or been repealed, the Alien Enemies Act (AEA) is still in effect. 

The bill is cosponsored by Reps. Bass, Blumenauer, Bowman, Bush, Chu, Cleaver, Connolly, Cooper, Espaillat, Garcia, Grijalva, Hayes, Holmes Norton, Jacobs, Jayapal, Hank Johnson, Mondaire Jones, Kelly, Khanna, Barbara Lee, Levin, Lowenthal, Maloney, Matsui, Meng, Moore, Napolitano, Newman, Ocasio-Cortez, Panetta, Pocan, Pressley, Schakowsky, Takano, Tlaib, Torres, Vargas, Velázquez , Watson Coleman and Williams.

The AEA allows the president to determine how and if all foreign nationals from a specific country should be “apprehended, restrained, secured and removed.” The Act was used during World War II to detain and deport German, Japanese, and Italian immigrants. More recently, President Donald Trump used the law to justify the Muslim Ban. The AEA grants the president extreme executive powers to target an entire group based only on their nationality. 

“No one should be targeted based solely on their religion, ethnicity or national origin. This xenophobic law is dangerous and must be taken off the books,” said Rep. Omar. “This outdated law allows the president to detain and deport immigrants based solely on their nationality. It was used to justify Japanese American internment, and the Muslim Ban by the Trump Administration. We must close all policy loopholes to prevent more pain to be inflicted on our communities. It’s way past time we put this hateful law in the dustbin of history where it belongs.” 

“As an American of Japanese ancestry and a survivor of concentration camps US style, it is past time we repeal the last vestiges of the archaic laws known as Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798,” said former Rep. Mike Honda, a survivor of Japanese American internment. “I am proud of Rep. Omar for leading this vital piece of legislation.”

“The Alien Enemies Act of 1798 is rooted in the xenophobic history of our country and has been used to justify the mass incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans during WWII and more recently the Muslim ban,” said David Inoue, Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League. “It is that same xenophobia that has fueled the thousands of anti-Asian incidents and crimes this past year. We are long past the time when we should have removed this antiquated law and urge swift passage of the Neighbors Not Enemies Act.”

The bill has been endorsed by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), Center for International Policy, Center for Security, Race and Rights (CSRR), Church World Service, Coalition on Human Needs, Conference of Presentation Sisters, Defending Rights & Dissent, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC), Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, Fred T. Korematsu Institute, Human Rights Watch, International Refugee Assistance Project, Islamic Society of North America , Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), Louisiana Advocates for immigrants in Detention, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office, Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC), Minnesota Peace Project, Muslim Public Affairs Council, National Immigration Law Center, National Iranian American Council Action, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC), NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, New York Immigration Coalition, OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates , Poligon Education Fund, Project South, Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (RISE), Revolutionary Love Project, Shoulder to Shoulder, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), South Asian Public Health Association (SAPHA), The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, The Sikh Coalition, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, UndocuBlack Network, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, and Veterans For Peace chapter 27.

You can read the full legislation here.