The past few weeks have been riddled with stories covering impeachment, the coronavirus outbreak, the Iowa caucuses and now the State of the Union Address. All these are doubtlessly significant developments, however, have overshadowed a crucial move by the Trump administration; the recent expansion of the “travel ban” to suspend immigrant visas for individuals from six new countries. Among the countries included is Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, with a population of 190 million people. President Trump has expanded the ban in an attempt to ignite his political base in light of the administration’s conflict with the Senate over impeachment.
There is very little evidence that Nigeria poses an immediate threat to the United States. There is a serious issue of domestic Islamic terrorism within their borders, with Boko Haram as the most organized and influential; however, there is little evidence that they have a capacity to create an international network. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has had examples of citizens conducting terrorist attacks within the United States but is noticeably absent from the travel ban. So why ban Nigerian citizens from immigration to the United States? According to the Quartz analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, the number of African migrants has risen nearly 50 percent from 2010 to 2018. Nigeria just so happens to have the largest number of immigrants to the United States , out of any other African country, while also possessing a considerable Muslim population, a trait shared by all recent additions to the ban. Trump’s promise along the 2016 campaign trail of a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” is coming closer to fruition with this ban expansion.
The administration claims to have brought this ban forward to protect the American people. If this is the case, then why is the new ban focused on immigration visas and not targeting short term visas? It is much easier for terrorists to enter the country on travel or business visas, even when compared to a student visa. Of the 19 terrorists involved in the attacks on the Twin Towers of September 11th, only one was in the country on a student visa; the other 18 had business or travel visas. If the administration genuinely believed that this travel ban expansion was intended to protect the people, then immigrants would not have been the sole target. Potential immigrants go through an expensive, timely, and tiring procedure to be brought into the United States. Prohibiting Nigerians from gaining citizenship is essentially the Trump administration seeking to satisfy his constituents by halting the immigration of Muslims entirely – not to protect the American people. Additionally, the expansion has the potential to strain our relationship in these countries, further fomenting anti-American sentiment in the region and dissuading potential students from studying in the United States. The Nigerian government is an incredibly diverse democracy and an ally of the United States through the Global Coalition against Daesh (ISIS). Why would we choose to weaken our relationship and influence with them?
The travel ban has also closed the United States’ doors to individuals seeking safety from the oppressive Myanmar government, to the chagrin of many human rights activists. Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been targeted by their national government in attacks, which include gang rapes and killings. A U.N.-conducted fact-finding mission has deemed that the atrocities in Myanmar were committed with “genocidal intent”; the U.N. subsequently instructed the Burmese government to work towards the prevention of any further acts of genocide towards the Rohingya Muslim populations. Instead of using the momentum from that ruling to accept refugees, the U.S. has chosen to push their government towards the influence of other nations. Other countries that are included in the travel ban are immigrant visas for Kyrgyzstan and Eritrea, while diversity visas were suspended for Sudan and Tanzania.