A group of Democrats on Capitol Hill are using Donald Trump’s visit to Washington this week to highlight their opposition to the presumptive Republican nominee’s immigration policies, including his past calls to ban Muslims from coming to the United States.
On Wednesday, they introduced legislation, which is just one paragraph, that would restrict the United States from using someone’s religion as a reason for blocking them from entering the country. The new bill, known as the Freedom of Religion Act, would do so by keeping religious tests out of the immigration process.
"It’s very narrow in scope. We’re not going to discriminate when it comes to immigration based on religion," Rep. Don Beyer, D-Virginia, who authored the bill, told ABC News.
Following the December shootings in San Bernardino, California, Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States "until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." His comments were condemned by Democrats and Republican congressional leaders, but he has not backed down on this stance.
Beyer said the legislation is an attempt to "appeal to hope rather than fear."
The bill has little chance of advancing in the Republican-controlled House, but Democrats say that’s not the point. "At the very least, having the bill out there gives encouragement out there to Americans that Donald Trump’s ideas are not ruling the day on this issue,” Beyer said. "We’re pushing back with a strong, clear voice."
Trump will hold high-profile meetings in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, including with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who is so far withholding his support for Trump, saying he wants learn more about how the candidate will unite the party after a divisive primary.
Democrats don’t want to let his visit go to waste and are trying leverage the attention surrounding the trip to score some political points.
“We didn’t plan it based on his visit but I think it is a coincidence is a fortuitous one,” Beyer said.
One Republican, Richard Hanna, has joined the group of more than 70 Democrats in supporting the bill. Hanna, a third-term Republican from New York, has said he won’t support Trump even if he wins the GOP nomination in the 2016 presidential race. Hanna is known for bucking his party at times -- he publicly supports same-sex marriage and has also opposed some restrictions on abortions.
The new bill has also attracted the support of several advocacy groups, some of whom are unusual bedfellows. The legislation has been backed by both the Anti-Defamation League and the Council on American Islamic Relations, who joined lawmakers at the bill’s unveiling.
"They are coming together and saying that religion should not be an impediment to realizing the benefits American values," Beyer said.