Updated: February 28, 2021
There are about 327,000 Nigerians living legally in the United States, by far the largest population of African immigrants living here. In 2018 alone, the US granted Nigerians about 14,000 green cards, and just last year, almost 13,000 Nigerian students were granted visas to study in the United States. In 2018 also, Nigeria had the highest numbers of visa overstays of any African country, as well as one of the highest rates of visa overstays of any country in the United States. These numbers might be the real reason the Trump administration has been trying to cut down legal immigration from Nigeria since 2017, by first increasing visa fees last year for Nigerians applying for non-immigrant visas, and by denying about 57 percent of B visa applications from Nigeria in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available.
By including Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, to their expanded 2017 travel ban, as well as Eritrea, Sudan, Tanzania, Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan, the Trump administration officially cited security concerns.
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The administration said each of the six countries displayed an “unwillingness or inability” to adhere to “baseline” security criteria. It also cited “insufficient information sharing” from those countries about criminal and terrorism data as well as a lack of electronic passport systems and issues with Interpol reporting methods.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grishan also justified the travel ban in a statement, saying that “the orders have been a tremendous and vital success”.
“President Trump’s security and travel proclamations have immeasurably improved our national security, substantially raised the global standard for information-sharing, and dramatically strengthened the integrity of the United States’ immigration system,” she said.
With those official ‘security concerns’, the administration said under the new policy, 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.
They will not be able to apply 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.
Citizens from Sudan and Tanzania will be barred from participating in the diversity visa lottery, the Trump administration said.
The Trump administration said the new policy, which President Donald Trump signed on Friday and would go into effect on February 22, 2020, was designed to tighten security for countries that do not comply with U.S. minimum security standards or cooperate to prevent illegal immigration.
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.
These official reasons about security concerns are obviously not the real reasons for imposing a total ban on immigrant visas for Nigerians.
The real reasons are the increasing number of Nigerians living legally in the United States and an attempt by President Trump to curb what he often refers to as “chain migration“, when permanent residents legally relocate family members to the United States.
The real reasons may also be rooted in racism. The Trump administration has been trying to decrease immigration from Nigeria since 2017, even before his now-infamous meeting in the Oval Office in June 2017 when Trump told his advisers Nigerians who set foot in the US would never “go back to their huts” in Africa, according to the New York Times.
Mr. Trump later said the United States should allow more people from Norway where virtually everyone is white and not from “shit-hole countries”.
Reports in the United States said with the new policy, cities with thriving Nigerian communities will be particularly hard hit, including Dallas, Chicago, Baltimore, Atlanta, Phoenix and Houston. Houston is said to even have the largest Nigerian population outside Brazil and Africa.
Although Nigerian will still be able to travel to the US on temporary visas, such as those for foreign workers, tourists, and students, but the policy could affect Nigerians deeply more than all other countries combined.
In a statement, Frank Sharry, the executive director of the immigration advocacy group America’s Voice, said “African immigrants in general and Nigerian immigrants in particular are among the most educated and successful immigrants in the United States,” “But the success and contributions of African communities is beside the point for this administration. It’s not a policy announcement based on facts – it’s based on Trump’s desire to make America white again.”