Trump’s xenophobic travel ban punishes Americans above all

The president’s recent anti-immigration move is breaking up American families.

By The Editorial Board

Boston Globe

February 17, 2020

People hold signs showing their support of ending a travel ban on Muslim-majority countries at a news conference outside of the US Capitol last month. Senate and House Democrats are calling for the passage of the NO BAN Act to end President Trump's travel bans, which they call discriminatory.
People hold signs showing their support of ending a travel ban on Muslim-majority countries at a news conference outside of the US Capitol last month. Senate and House Democrats are calling for the passage of the NO BAN Act to end President Trump’s travel bans, which they call discriminatory. SARAH SILBIGER/GETTY

A rational president, making decisions untainted by racial bias, would know that Nigerians are among the most successful and highly educated immigrant groups in America: 61 percent hold at least a bachelor’s degree. More than 1 in 3 Nigerian immigrants work in the US health care industry; compared to the general population, they’re also more likely to work in science, technology, and engineering fields.

Then there’s President Trump. Shown statistics about Nigerian immigration in the United States, he lamented in 2017 that once Nigerians were in the United States, they would never “go back to their huts” in Africa.

That ignorant, bigoted comment tells you everything you need to know about the administration’s latest immigration restrictions, which primarily affect African nationals and their US-based families. The administration has tried to rationalize the policy as a national-security move. But they’re not kidding anyone, and it shows why Congress needs to limit the president’s ability to issue sweeping bans affecting entire countries.Get Today in Opinion in your inboxGlobe Opinion’s must-reads, delivered to you every Sunday-Friday.Sign Up

As of Feb. 21, the president instructed the US Department of Homeland Security to bar citizens of Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, and Nigeria, which has the largest economy in Africa, from seeking permanent admission to the United States. The order also bans citizens of Sudan and Tanzania from participating in the diversity lottery program, which issues green cards to as many as 50,000 foreigners annually. In a press release, DHS insisted that the new “restrictions do not reflect animus or bias against any particular country, region, ethnicity, race, or religion”; instead, they are the “result of these countries’ unwillingness or inability to adhere to our identity management, information sharing, national security, and public safety assessment criteria.”

It is a dramatic expansion of Trump’s previous attempts to bar Muslims and other foreigners. Yet this time, the main victims are American citizens. Unlike the previous travel bans, this new restriction does not apply to refugees, students, tourists, or visitors coming under temporary visas. But it will prevent nearly all parents, children, wives, husbands, and other eligible relatives of US citizens from applying for a green card. The new travel ban will hurt more than 336,000 naturalized US citizens, who won’t be able to reunite with relatives living abroad.

Under the new rule, a tourist from Nigeria can still visit, but a Nigerian seeking to join her husband who is already here will be barred from moving here. As immigration experts have pointed out, the “underwear bomber” — the only Nigerian individual charged with terrorism in the United States — came here on a tourist visa and thus would have been allowed in under the new travel restriction. Others have noted that, in the last two decades, no Americans have been killed on US soil by terrorist extremists from the six countries included in Trump’s new travel ban.

It’s hard to take the Trump administration’s argument for the new ban seriously. If one is to believe that DHS is targeting these countries for their inability to provide certain safeguards when issuing passports or for failing to share information on certain individuals, presumably that would apply to tourists or other short-term travelers as well. Why ban only the grandfather seeking to move to be with his US-based family?

Congress can and should do something, of course. The NO BAN Act — or the National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants Act — was filed last year by US Representative Judy Chu of California. It’s a fair and sensible policy solution that inserts fundamental checks and balances into the president’s executive power to indefinitely restrict or bar foreigners from coming to the United States. The bill would amend the section of the Immigrant and Nationality Act that grants the president such broad discretion and, aside from repealing all Trump’s travel ban orders, it would require that all future presidential travel limits be reported to Congress and the public, and that they be supported by credible evidence.

Taken together, all Trump’s travel bans are closing the doors of America on a half-billion foreigners and roughly a quarter of Africa’s population. Let’s not forget Trump’s own words when referring to immigrants from Africa. In a now-infamous remark directed at immigrants from Africa and Central America, he whined: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

It should be self-evident by now that Trump’s new travel ban is not grounded on real national security concerns. Instead, it’s about selectively deciding who should be an American.

Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board.

Law Office of Bryan A. Chapman


Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire

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Trump is deciding who is American’: how the new travel ban is tearing families apart

Trump travel ban

As six countries are added to the list of restrictions, Nigerian and Eritreans in the US say the ban is devastating their lives

Source: The Guardian

Sam Levin in Los Angeles @SamTLevin Email

Sun 16 Feb 2020 

It started out as a joyous day for Olumide. On 31 January, the 32-year-old Nigerian American learned in an email that the US was finally processing the visa applications of his wife and daughter in Nigeria.

Hours later, Donald Trump shattered their celebration, announcing that he was adding six countries to the travel ban, including Nigeria. The decision cuts off pathways to permanent US residency for Nigerians, throwing Olumide’s case into limbo at the final stage of the process. It leaves his wife and and 11-year-old girl stuck across an ocean with little hope of making it to the US.

“This is inhuman,” said Olumide, a systems analyst and US military veteran who served in Afghanistan and lives in Washington DC. He asked to use his middle name out of fear he might jeopardize his case. “As a soldier, I understand the need to protect the country. But to completely shut the doors … it’s just plain wrong.”

Millions of Africans now banned: ‘We are not criminals’

Trump’s January order builds on the 2017 travel ban that has continued to target five Muslim-majority countries, and significantly restricts permanent residency for nationals from Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria and Myanmar. It also blocks people from Tanzania and Sudan from obtaining green cards through the “diversity visa” lottery.

Just like the 2017 restrictions, it blocks permanent immigration from the targeted countries, making limited exceptions if applicants prove that denials would cause “undue hardship” and that granting them visas would support “national interest”.

The original ban already resulted in denied visas for more than 42,000 people, the majority from Iran. The addition of the new countries has doubled the number of Muslims targeted across the globe to roughly 320 million, advocates estimate. Roughly one-quarter of all Africans are now affected.

The restrictions now apply to 13 countries, including Nigeria, home to Africa’s largest population and economy. It cuts off countries where some are fleeing violence. Some estimate the new ban, which goes into effect on 21 February, could hinder more than 12,000 immigrants seeking to resettle in the US and reunite with family in the next year.

The restrictions are a signature component of Trump’s aggressive anti-immigrant agenda, which has included curbs on legal migration, a destruction of the American asylum system, an all-time low cap on refugees, expanded detention and mass deportations.

“Trump started out by scapegoating Muslims in 2017,” said Javeria Jamil, attorney with Asian Americans Advancing Justice’s Asian Law Caucus, who has been fielding calls from families affected by the new ban. “Now, it’s not just the Muslim ban. It has turned into an African ban.”

The latest major Trump resignations and firings

 The Trump administration has claimed that the ban, which blindsided some diplomats, is a national security measure, and that the added countries failed to meet US security and information-sharing standards.

But immigrant rights groups said the policy is a political maneuver amid Trump’s re-election campaign – and one that will have profound consequences.

“People are in turmoil,” said Audu Kadiri, a 43-year-old community organizer who left Nigeria in 2014. He had planned to bring his mother to the US, but the ban may make that impossible. The activist, who now lives in the Bronx, hasn’t yet told his mother about Trump’s order, because he doesn’t know how to break the news. “There is so much collateral damage, it’s hard to quantify.”

In Nigeria, Kadiri was an LGBTQ+ rights advocate who worked on HIV prevention and other human rights issues. He was forced to flee due to his activism and sought asylum in the US. It’s now unsafe for him to return to Nigeria, which is why he wants his 68-year-old mother to come to the US.

He hasn’t seen her since 2014 and, if Trump is re-elected, he fears it will be at least another five years before they reunite. She’ll probably miss the birth of his third child.

“Nigerians have contributed to the development of this country, like every immigrant community,” he said. “We are not criminals.”

Torn apart, with dwindling options

Before the January announcement, the Trump administration had already clamped down on travel from Africa, including hikes in visa fees, and new obstacles and increased denials for Nigerians seeking approval for short-term visits. The US further suspended visitor visas from Eritrea in 2017.

That means families have been fighting for years to use the dwindling avenues available to them to reunite, and for those who have invested significant time and money into the process, the sudden news of an outright ban was particularly brutal.

“There’s nothing you can do, and it makes you feel so helpless,” said Olumide, the veteran. Olumide arrived in the US from Nigeria when he was 10 years old. He met his wife in Nigeria in 2012 after he left the military, and the two got married last year.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services approved the petition for his wife and daughter in January, just before the announcement of the ban. But they don’t yet have their visas – and the ban may make it impossible to get them.

Olumide had hoped they would be starting their lives together in the US by now, and said he was pained by feelings of guilt: “I made promises to her.” The couple hasn’t fully processed the news, he added: “We don’t want to think about not being together.”

He noted that his daughter has typhoid and his wife has malaria, and he constantly fears for their health and safety.

Hana Mohamed, a 20-year-old student in San Diego, who grew up in Sudan, said she was eager for her grandparents to come to the US, especially so her grandmother could get medical care in California: “It’s just so sad and frustrating. They are getting older, and I want to see them before anything happens.”

Mohamed said it was difficult to accept that the US was banning large groups of Muslims in the name of safety while seeming to do little about the ongoing terror threat of American mass shootings: “It’s just so shocking that we have come to this day where a whole nation of people are getting discriminated against. Isn’t the purpose of the United States to stand up for everyone who is getting hurt and treat them right?”

Isn’t the purpose of the United States to stand up for everyone who is getting hurt and treat them right? Hana Mohamed

One Eritrean American who works as an engineer in Silicon Valley, and requested anonymity for fear of hurting his family’s case, has petitioned for his mother to come live with him in the US and was hoping she would soon get an interview date at the embassy. Then the new ban was unveiled.

“We’ve waited our turn. We’ve followed the law. I’m a tax-paying citizen contributing to the economy,” he said, noting that his mother is 69 years old and lives alone in Eritrea. “This is just pure evil.”

He said he felt Trump was implementing the ban as a “soundbite for the campaign” while disregarding that it would leave Eritreans like his mother with no options: “This was our only hope to get her here.”

For Eritreans, the ban comes as as the Trump administration has ramped up deportations of Eritrean asylum seekers, despite the US government’s own acknowledgment of the torture and arbitrary detention Eritreans are currently facing.

Abraham Zere, an Eritrean journalist who was granted asylum in the US and now lives in Ohio, said it seemed some Eritreans were reluctant to speak out about the ban and live in fear of potential repercussions from both governments: “People are scared to even discuss it.”

Zere’s own family is affected: his mother is still in Eritrea, separated from her children. She can’t even video chat with her family because of the poor internet in Eritrea, which means she never gets to see her granddaughter, an eight-year-old she hasn’t yet met, he said.

Some warn the ban may have life-or-death consequences. For queer and transgender migrants in the targeted countries, it could lead them to embark on perilous journeys to escape to the US as they run out of options, said Zack Mohamed, who is Somali American and a member of the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project: “This is a big ‘not welcome’ sign in front of our faces.”

In response to questions about the impact on migrants fleeing violence, a US state department spokesperson said the ban was not meant to “limit the ability of an individual to seek asylum”, adding: “Our first priority remains national security. We continue to work with our dedicated consular officers in the field to identify and expedite those individuals with urgent travel needs.”

Asked about charges that the ban is discriminatory, the spokesperson said the restrictions are based on “nationality” and “visa category” and that “consular officers do not adjudicate based on religion”. The spokesperson said there were specific criteria to determine which countries are restricted and noted that Chad was on the original list but removed in 2018.

Fighting to end the ban

With the first travel ban upheld by the US supreme court, there are few recourses left to challenge the policy. Advocates are hoping a Democratic president will immediately repeal the ban and have also recently renewed the push for Congress to pass the No Ban Act, which would end the ban and prevent discriminatory immigration policies.

Until then, Trump will continue to use his executive power to try to redefine what it means to be a citizen, advocates warned.

“The president of the United States, the US government is explicitly trying to decide who gets to be an American,” said Eric Naing, who is Burmese American and works with Muslim Advocates, a group that has challenged the ban. His family would not have been able to come to the US if the ban on Myanmar had been in place. “He’s saying I shouldn’t be American. My parents shouldn’t be American. It’s deeply upsetting.”

Olumide noted that the ban was punishing countless American citizens like him: “It’s hurting the exact people you’re trying to protect.”

Law Office of Bryan A. Chapman


Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire

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