The Trump administration on Friday unveiled a new set of immigration restrictions on six African and Asian countries, expanding the so-called travel ban that has been denounced as discriminatory by critics to effectively halt the admission of immigrants from Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria.
The move adds Nigeria, Eritrea, Sudan, Tanzania, Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan to the third version of President Trump’s travel ban, a policy that elicited confusion and massive uproar during his first days in office when he banned most travelers and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations.
The proclamation signed by the president on Friday also maintains the restrictions currently in place for Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela and North Korea.
Under the new proclamation, people from Nigeria, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan and Eritrea will be ineligible for immigrant visas to move to the U.S., while citizens of Sudan and Tanzania will be prohibited from enrolling in the diversity visa lottery — a program that Mr. Trump and immigration hawks have long railed against. Residents of the six countries will still be eligible for short-term business and tourist visas.
Immigrant visas petitioners from the new group of countries could be eligible for waivers and exemptions under the order, which is slated to take effect February 22, according to senior officials from the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the restrictions.
About 12,000 people could be affected by the new stringent measures, the officials said on a call with reporters.
Friday’s expansion, the officials said, was the culmination of a “comprehensive” assessment by the department and is designed to ensure the designated countries improve information-sharing about criminal and terrorist activity, travel vetting procedures and other security safeguards.
The six nations could have their restrictions lifted if they address these concerns, the officials added.
“It is logical and essential to thoroughly screen and vet everyone seeking to travel or immigrate to the United States,” acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement.
“However, there are some countries from whom the U.S. does not receive the necessary information about its travelers and, as a result, pose a national security or public safety risk that warrants tailored travel restrictions.”
Despite assurances by officials that the restrictions were solely grounded in national security concerns, Democrats said there was still a discriminatory intent underpinning the expansion.
Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee said the administration could’ve included other countries that pose national security concerns in the ban, but that it chose to only add countries with populations of color.
“There are bad actors in Russia. There are bad actors in China. None of those places have been put on any ban,” Jackson Lee said during a call with reporters earlier Friday.
“It is pure discrimination and racism.”
On the same call, fellow Democratic Congressman Joe Neguse of Colorado portrayed the new list of countries as a move by the administration to continue its efforts to severely restrict immigration without the consent of Congress.