President Donald Trump is issuing a travel ban on citizens of Nigeria, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar.
Citizens from Nigeria, Eritrea, Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan won’t be allowed to apply for visas to immigrate to the United States under the new policy for visas that can lead to permanent residency, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said during a call with reporters on Friday.
Wolf clarified that the targeted visas are distinct from non-immigrant visas issued to visitors, which will not be impacted by the ban.
The Trump administration said the new policy was designed to tighten security for countries that do not comply with U.S. minimum security standards or cooperate to prevent illegal immigration.
Citizens from Sudan and Tanzania will be barred from participating in the diversity visa lottery, the Trump administration said.
The European country of Belarus was dropped from the list of seven countries as previously reported.
The administration said investor visas, which lead to green cards, will also be barred.
But the DHS official said the restrictions will not apply to skilled foreign workers entering the United States on H-1B visas, even though such visas are temporary, but can lead to permanent status in the United States.
He said immigrants already in the United States, or who have approved visas will be exempt from the ban.
However, people with pending visa requests – some of whom have waited years – will be barred.
All applicants will be able to apply for a waiver, a process already in place under Trump’s existing ban. But a federal lawsuit challenging the administration claims the waiver process is opaque and difficult to navigate.
The visa restrictions will not apply to refugees, according to the official. Trump’s administration has separately capped the number of refugees allowed into the United States at 18,000 for the 2020 fiscal year, the lowest level in decades, a report noted.
Last week, United States House of Representatives member Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to reconsider adding Sudan to the administration’s travel ban.
The new travel includes Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, and comes on the third anniversary of Mr. Trump’s initial travel ban in 2017.
Trump signed his original travel ban via an executive order on January 27, 2017, about seven days into his tenure.
In that order, the Trump administration said the policy was necessary to prevent potential acts of terrorism in the United States. He argued that the countries on the list did not adequately vet their travelers to the U.S.
The 2017 order initially denied visas to citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries and was labeled an anti-Muslim ban. It was later modified following outrage and court challenges.
In a statement sent to TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C., Amnesty International condemned the new travel ban, describing it as “cruel, inhumane, bigoted”.
“This chaos has become the new normal. The policies this administration has enacted towards people seeking safety have been cruel, inhumane, bigoted. Once again, we reject these policies and stand in support of all people this administration seeks to exclude because of their identity,” said Margaret Huang, Amnesty International USA’s executive director.
“Reviving this ban, and the anti-Muslim sentiment in which it originated, is a violation of the values of human rights and human dignity, and it must be overturned.
“The Trump administration’s efforts to expand the ban are offensive and actually harmful to our national security. Our research has demonstrated how every version of this ban has shown itself to be deadly, dangerous, and disastrous. This policy is rooted in hate, white supremacy, and racism.
“Since the ban was first implemented three years ago, we have seen families torn apart, a rise in anxiety in Muslim communities, and anti-Muslim hate crimes, and people who were supposed to be welcomed to safety have been stuck in limbo by a government that abandoned its own commitments. The ban has become a catastrophe, especially for all those to whom it is a question of life and death”.
This story has been updated to reflect that the visas impacted for Nigeria, Ertitrea, Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar are not non-immigrant visas issued to visitors. while Sudan and Tanzania won’t be able to apply for “diversity visa lottery”.
“The Administration’s expanded travel ban now affects close to a quarter of the population of the African continent. Less than a year after the US government unveiled its new US-Africa trade policy Prosper Africa, nationals of Nigeria, the continent’s largest country and economy, are being banned from visas that may lead to permanent residency in the US,” Gyude Moore said.
“While others—China, Russia, and recently the UK—are ramping up their presence and investment on the African continent, the US is moving in the other direction. The Africa Continental Free Trade Area will become operational in July. Chinese, Turkish, Russian, and British firms, backed by their governments, are staking positions on a continent that will define the global economy’s future.
“One hopes that the United States, which remains Africa’s top development partner, would follow suit and fully engage with the continent—but that hope fades as the US continues to push more and more African nationals away.”
According to Michael Clemens, “The law of the United States, for the last 55 years, has required that ‘no person shall receive any preference or priority or be discriminated against in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of the person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence.’
“The current US Administration has effectively nullified the law by restricting the issuance of some types of visas to people from an ever-growing grab-bag of countries it dislikes. Those countries are chosen opaquely and arbitrarily. The rationale for limiting visas to the nationals of these four African countries can only be seen as a demand for a reduction in immigration from African countries collectively (especially due to the White House’s previous assessment regarding ‘shithole countries’).”