Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. He can be reached on [email protected]
In fiery analyses on Chinese Global TV Network (CGTVN), Nneka Stefania Achapu, the founder of the African Public Affairs Committee (AfricPAC) and U.S. Bilateral African Chamber of Commerce argued that the Trump administration has made it clear it was waging a war against black and brown people.
Speaking from Houston, Texas, the city with the largest population of Nigerians in the United States, Ms. Achapu said the the expanded travel ban would affect not only Nigerians but a lot of American families as well.
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She shut down the idea Nigeria was a security risk to the United States, arguing that a determined terrorist can use a non-immigrant visa to strike in the United States and not necessary immigrant visas that have now been banned by the Trump administration under the new policy.
Born in Nigeria and raised in Italy before moving to the United States to pursue further studies, Ms. Achapu has remained deeply passionate about her African roots, and has been working hard to protect the rights of all immigrants in the U.S.
Other panelists, except one Trump supporter, dismissed the security risk arguing given by the Trump administration to expand the travel ban to include Nigeria, Tanzania, Eritrea, Sudan, Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan.
Under the new policy, citizens from Nigeria, Eritrea, Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan won’t be allowed to apply for immigrant visas to immigrate to the United States.
These are visas that can lead to permanent residency, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf explained during a call with reporters last month.
Citizens from Sudan and Tanzania will be barred from participating in the diversity visa lottery, the Trump administration said.
Wolf clarified that the targeted visas are distinct from non-immigrant visas issued to visitors, which will not be impacted by the ban, a clarification used by the panelist to dismiss the security risk argument as terrorists can use any visa to wreak havoc and horror inside the United States.
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.
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 month, 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 which included Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, came 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.
“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”.