WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced Friday that it is curbing legal immigration from six additional countries that officials said did not meet security standards, as part of an election-year push to further restrict immigration.
Officials said immigrants from Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania will face new restrictions in obtaining certain visas to come to the United States. But it is not a total travel ban, unlike President Donald Trump’s earlier effort that generated outrage around the world for unfairly targeting Muslims.
U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, a Colorado Democrat whose parents immigrated from Eritrea, said the move is another example of the institutionalized xenophobia that is adding to existing prejudice in the United States. In a phone call with reporters Friday morning, he promised to fight the restriction.
“America offered my family freedom and the opportunity to live the American dream,” said Neguse, of Lafayette. “The president’s ban does not align with American values or promises our country offers to migrants and refugees. I’m committed to making sure America welcomes all faith and religions.”
Last March, Neguse visited Eritrea, an autocratic and isolated Horn of Africa country that an American congressman hadn’t stepped foot in since 2005. The congressman was born soon after his parents immigrated to Colorado.
“We must uphold our fundamental role as a beacon of hope in the world,” he said.
Eritrea is responsible for the fourth-most refugees to America, according to the Migration Policy Institute. In the last few years alone, 500,000 Eritreans have fled the country seeking asylum, Neguse’s office said Friday. Last year, 932 Eritrean refugees were allowed into the United States.
The announcement comes as Trump tries to promote his administration’s crackdown on immigration, highlighting a signature issue that motivated his supporters in 2016 and hoping it has the same affect this November. The administration recently announced a crackdown on birth tourism and is noting the sharp decline in crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border and citing progress on building the border wall.
Trump was expected to sign a proclamation on the restrictions as early as Friday; the restrictions would go into effect Feb. 21.
Immigrant visas were restricted for Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Eritrea and Nigeria. That type of visa is given to people seeking to live in the U.S. permanently. They include visas for people sponsored by family members or employers as well as the diversity visa program that made up to 55,000 visas available in the most recent lottery. In December, 40,666 immigrant visas were granted worldwide.
Sudan and Tanzania have diversity visas suspended. The State Department uses a computer drawing to select people from around the world for up to 55,000 diversity visas. Nigeria is already excluded from the lottery along with other countries that had more than 50,000 natives immigrate to the U.S. in the previous five years.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said Homeland Security officials would work with the countries on bolstering their security requirements to help them work to get off the list.
“These countries for the most part want to be helpful, they want to do the right thing, they have relationships with the U.S., but for a variety of different reasons failed to meet those minimum requirements,” Wolf said.
The current restrictions follow Trump’s travel ban, which the Supreme Court upheld as lawful in 2018. They are significantly softer than Trump’s initial ban, which had suspended travel from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen for 90 days, blocked refugee admissions for 120 days, and suspended travel from Syria.
Trump has said a travel ban is necessary to protect Americans. But opponents have argued that he seeks to target Muslim countries, pointing to comments he made as a candidate in 2015 calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Wolf said officials spent about six months working on revised criteria. They examined countries for compliance with minimum standards for identification and information-sharing, and assessed whether countries properly tracked terrorism or public safety risks. Officials looked at whether countries used modern passports, shared information that the U.S. could validate on travelers and identified possible criminal suspects in a way that the U.S. could see before entry.
Government agencies then discussed whether countries had different, but important, contacts with the U.S. and then decided on restrictions.
“Really the only way to mitigate the risk is to impose these travel restrictions,” Wolf said.
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