As six countries are added to the list of restrictions, Nigerian and Eritreans in the US say the ban is devastating their lives
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 Olumides 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 its just plain wrong.
Millions of Africans now banned: We are not criminals
Trumps 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 Africas 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 Trumps 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 Justices Asian Law Caucus, who has been fielding calls from families affected by the new ban. Now, its not just the Muslim ban. It has turned into an African ban.
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 Trumps 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, hasnt yet told his mother about Trumps order, because he doesnt know how to break the news. There is so much collateral damage, its 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. Its now unsafe for him to return to Nigeria, which is why he wants his 68-year-old mother to come to the US.
He hasnt seen her since 2014 and, if Trump is re-elected, he fears it will be at least another five years before they reunite. Shell 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.