- Ejiofor Alike and Omololu Ogunmade with agency reports
The administration of President Donald Trump is planning to add Nigeria and six countries in Africa and Asia to a group of nations subject to travel restrictions, according to administration’s officials who have seen the list.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that the new restrictions would apply to travelers and immigrants from Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania.
According to the report, these countries would not necessarily face blanket bans on travel to the US, but could have restrictions placed on specific types of visas, such as business or visitor visas, administration officials said.
Some countries could be banned from participating in the diversity visa lottery programme, which awards green cards to people in countries with low levels of immigration to the US.
President Trump had called for an end to the programme, saying it had allowed undesirable people into the US.
He had proposed reorienting the existing visa system toward skilled workers instead.
The officials said the list is final, adding that on Tuesday the White House was still debating whether to include one or two of the countries.
The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to WSJ’s request for comment.
The State Department declined to comment.
The administration plans to roll out its expanded travel restrictions on Monday, marking the three-year anniversary of the initial travel ban Trump signed on his seventh day in office, sparking controversy at the beginning of his term.
The administration has said its policy restricting travel is necessary to prevent potential acts of terrorism, as countries on the list don’t adequately vet their travelers to the US.
The first order, which banned travel to the US by most residents of seven majority-Muslim countries, was struck down by a federal court and withdrawn. A second iteration of the ban, issued in March 2017, was also struck down by a federal judge who said it still amounted to religious discrimination against Muslims.
A third version of the policy, issued in September 2017, was upheld by a divided Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling in June 2018 on the grounds that federal law gives the president broad authority to suspend entry to the US.
Those current restrictions blocked travel by individuals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria,Yemen and North Korea, and by political officials from Venezuela.
The administration briefly included Chad on the ban list, but removed the country in April 2018.
Unlike the initial list, most of the new countries do not have majority-Muslim populations.
Several of them, however, have had relatively higher rates of their citizens overstaying visas in the US, according to DHS data.
In the 2018 fiscal year, 24 per cent of Eritreans on business or visitor visas overstayed their permits, along with 15 per cent of Nigerians and 12 per cent of people from Sudan. Those compared with a total overstay rate in the category of 1.9 per cent.
Immigrant-rights groups have criticized the planned expansion of the policy to new countries. “Tens of thousands of American families are already hurting and separated because of this bigoted and cruel ban. Doubling down on it won’t make any of us safer,” said President of Muslim Advocates, a nonprofit civil-rights organisation, Farhana Khera,
WSJ further reported that the move to expand its travel restrictions signals the Trump administration’s intent to ramp up several hard-line immigration policies ahead of the 2020 election, which Trump’s advisers believe will play in his favour.
A federal judge this month blocked an executive order the president had signed giving state and local governments the ability to reject placement of refugees in their communities.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged all three versions of Trump’s travel ban, declined to comment on whether it would bring new litigation against the expansion.
We Won’t React to Speculations, Says Presidency
Meanwhile, the presidency yesterday said it would not hastily react to reports that President Trump has rolled out new plans to place travel restrictions on some countries including Nigeria.
Responding to inquiries from reporters on presidential reaction to the plan, presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said the presidency would not react to speculations.
According to him, those anxious about the plan should be patient until details of the new arrangement are made public.
“We have read the news that the Trump administration is planning to add a host of African, Asian and Eastern European countries to its travel restrictions list as reported by the US media.
“We are not going to react to speculations. We urge you to wait for us to see what unfolds under the new policy, its scope, its reach, the implications and its consequences before we react,” he said.
Efforts made to get the reaction of the United States Embassy in Nigeria proved abortive as the officials did not respond to messages sent to their email.