Volume 31

Non-Discrimination in Refugee and Asylum Law (Against Travel Ban 1.0 and 2.0)

by Eunice Lee

This article explores the tension between Executive Orders No. 13,769 and No. 13,780—colloquially known as “travel ban” 1.0 and 2.0—and the deep non-discrimination norms in refugee and asylum law. I engage in a close read of the legislative history of the Refugee Act of 1980; analyze the 1951 Refugee Convention and subsequent international human rights treaties; provide a novel and in-depth analysis of U.S. statutory, regulatory, and case law interpretations of the refugee definition via the theoretical framework of non-discrimination; and examine the structural aspects and standards governing refugee admissions. The clear picture that emerges from these sources points in a single direction—the government cannot engage in invidious discrimination against refugees or asylum seekers on the basis of religion or national origin. My analysis fills a gap in the literature as the academy and the public continue to debate the permissibility of the travel ban and its iterations.

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