NEWSLETTER #61

Steve Miller Strikes Again…

Trump’s expanded travel ban sows fear in communities across US

Rights groups decry the ban as a further step to keep Muslims and other racialized people out of the US. 

The rumors began circulating last week.  By Friday afternoon, Houston immigration lawyer, Ral Obioha, said her phone was ringing off the hook with several of her clients asking a seemingly single question:  “How does this affect me?”  But the answer is not clear, Obioha told Al Jazeera, as confusion and uncertainty spread.

As of February 21, citizens of Eritrea, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, and Nigeria will no longer be eligible for immigrant visas to the US, the White House announced on Friday afternoon.

Citizens from Sudan and Tanzania will also not be eligible to enter a lottery program to apply for immigrant visas.

The Trump administration’s decision has been widely decried by advocacy and rights groups as an extension of an earlier so-called “Muslim ban”, under which citizens of several Muslim-majority countries were barred from entering the country.

“It really hit us hard right now,” said Obioha, who was born in the US to parents from Nigeria.

Houston, Texas, is home to one of the largest Nigerian diasporas in the country, Obioha explained, and Friday’s announcement threw the community into chaos.

“It’s a lot of fear.  It’s a lot of trepidation because people just don’t know what this means practically for them.  There is a lot of disbelief that this administration would go as far as separating families.  The Trump administration has destroyed the concept of family unity.”

The Trump administration justified the extended ban by saying the countries added to the list did not meet specific security criteria, such as proper identification of US visa applicants, or failed to share information with the U.S.

“It is fundamental to national security, and the height of common sense, that if foreign national wishes to receive the benefits of immigration and travel to the United States, it must satisfy basic security conditions,” the White House said in a statement.

[This is a false and unsubstantial statement !]

But advocates say the restrictions are the latest step in the Trump Administration’s plan to keep Muslims and other racialized people out of the US.

Trump promised during his election campaign to stop all Muslims from entering the country, and in 2018, The Washington Post reported that Trump, in a discussion about protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries, had asked: “Why are we having, all these people from shithole countries come here?”

In the early days of his administration, Trump passed an executive order that barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority from the US, prompting protests at major airports and several court challenges.

The US Supreme Court eventually upheld an amended version of the order in 2018, and the ban remains in place for Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, while some citizens of Venezuela and North Korea also face travel restrictions.

“The reasons keep changing about why it is that the Trump administration wants to keep Black and brown people out.  And that’s because there is no honest reason, except for racism and xenophobia,” said Patrice S. Lawrence, co-director of the UndocuBlack.

The Trump administration’s new travel ban does not apply to people from the six countries who are applying for a tourist or business visa to the US.

For people from Nigeria, Eritrea, Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan specifically, the restrictions apply to immigrant visas for people who intend on living in the US permanent residents, or workers holding advanced degrees, among others.

For people from Sudan and Tanzania, the ban applies to the “diversity visa” program.

In 2018, more than 500,000 people from Sudan (entrants and their spouses or children) had registered for that program, according to US Department of State statistics. Of the total number of applicants, 3,781 Sudanese people were then selected and given a chance to apply for an immigrant visa to the US.

That same year, approximately 14,200 Tanzanians citizens applied to the program and only 173 got to apply for an immigrant visa to the US.

According to the president’s proclamation, anyone outside the US who does not already have a valid immigrant visa on February 21, when the order comes into force, may be affected.  It was not immediately clear if waivers or exceptions would be issued and, if so, when and under what conditions.

Confusion is widespread and fear exists in minority-based communities across the country.

“It’s like a slap in the face to say you’re doing everything that you’re supposed to in regards to being safe and secure and wanting better for yourselves, but the door is closed,” Denver, an area that is home to about 6,000-7,000 Sudanese families, is in a panic.

This new travel ban also sends people a message that they are not welcome in the US no matter how long, even if you are a citizen, you’re not fully accepted.  “We think that really is heartbreaking for a lot of people here.”

It is unclear how many Eritreans would be affected by the new restrictions. There are a lot of other issues, concerning the repressive conditions inside Eritrea, from tens of thousands of people in jail to forced military conscription and crackdowns on basic human rights.

People are not free to travel to other countries.  They are not free.

Since 2017 and 2018, Eritreans have been barred from applying for most types of US visas – including non-immigrants visas-.

While Nigeria has been a longtime US ally, critics pointed to a recent spat over visa fees as a sign of strained bilateral relationship.

In August, the US embassy in Nigeria hiked fees for approved US visas, a move that came after the Trump administration said it would issue “reciprocity fees” to make sure visa costs were equal between the US and other countries.

The number of non-immigrant B1/B2 visas issued to Nigerians for tourism or business in the US was down 21 percent between December 2018 and December 2019, US State Department statistics show.

Ultimately, family members in Nigeria who hope to come to the US, and this ban makes that much harder.

According to an article in Aljazeera, there are a lot of other communities that have been really good at advocating and speaking out on these issues. . .  We can do the same thing if we just unite and really try to make our voice heard.

In Houston, everyone was still speculating about what impact the ban would have- but that fear and anxiety prevailed. It looks like the administration said, ok well we’ve done a Muslin-majority cleansing, and now it’s time to do an African cleansing.  That’s what it looks like, and that’s what a lot of people are feeling right now.  Blanked discrimination of nationals from Muslim countries is un-American.

 

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