On January 31, 2020, President Trump added six more countries – four in Africa – to the existing travel ban implemented in 2017. The countries added to the Travel Ban are Nigeria (Africa’s most populous nation), Sudan, Tanzania, Eritrea, Myanmar, and Kyrgyzstan.
Immigrants from Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea, and Kyrgyzstan will not be able to obtain immigrant visas to the United States, while immigrants from Tanzania and Sudan will not qualify for the diversity visa lottery. According to The Hill, “Four of the six affected countries are in Africa and represent 25 percent of the continent’s population. All six have significant Muslim populations.”
The expansion of the Travel Ban does not affect the issuance of nonimmigrant visas – visas issued for tourists, students, temporary workers, and others.
The United States argues that the travel ban is needed to ensure that countries meet security requirements for travel into the United States. The Administration has not been able, however, to answer an important question: If the Travel Ban is to protect U.S. citizens from potential harm, then why does the expanded Travel Ban allow for nonimmigrant visas from the banned countries?
If a person wished to inflict harm upon the United States in some way, would that person choose to apply for an immigrant visa (which involves a much more restrictive and lengthy application process), or a nonimmigrant visa, which is comparatively easier to obtain? The Administration’s decision to continue issuing nonimmigrant visas to applicants from the newly banned countries directly contradicts the purported justification for the expansion of the Travel Ban – to protect Americans from harm.
This ban will continue to result in separation of U.S. citizens and their families. Spouses, children, parents, and siblings of U.S. citizens are subject to the ban. Immigrants who have been waiting months or even years to reunite with their loved ones in the United States will continue to endure longer periods of separation and devastating effects.
Immigrants subject to the ban are able to apply for waivers. Those waivers, however, are highly discretionary and decided by the U.S. consulates. According to the Washington Post, since the rollout of the initial travel ban, only 10 percent of waivers have been granted since 2017.
Many advocates and politicians continue to speak out against the travel ban given the administration’s unclear rationale as to why certain countries are added to the list. Senator Kamala Harris recently stated, “Trump’s travel bans have never been rooted in national security — they’re about discriminating against people of color …They are, without a doubt, rooted in anti-immigrant, white supremacist ideologies.”
The ban is likely to have an effect on the U.S. economy. According to the New York Times, “A year after the Trump administration announced that a major pillar of its new strategy for Africa was to counter the growing influence of China and Russia by expanding economic ties to the continent, it slammed the door shut on Nigeria, the continent’s biggest economy.”