Trump’s expanded travel ban targets Nigeria, five other countries

Demonstrators listen to speakers during a rally outside the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday Jan 28, 2020, in Richmond, Va. President Donald Trump's travel ban on travelers from predominantly Muslim countries is going back before a federal appeals court. (AP)
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Updated 01 February 2020

Trump’s expanded travel ban targets Nigeria, five other countries

  • The original travel ban barred nearly all immigrants and travelers from seven countries with majority Muslim populations

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump issued an expanded version of his travel ban on Friday that targets prospective immigrants from Nigeria and five other countries, a move that could affect thousands of people and reignite debate on whether the policy is discriminatory.
Of the six countries added to the ban, four are African nations and three have Muslim-majority populations. Democrats and immigration advocates accuse the Trump administration of seeking to expand its original 2017 ban that targeted Muslim-majority countries and of disproportionately focusing on African countries.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said during a call with reporters that the six countries failed to meet US security and information-sharing standards, which necessitated the new restrictions. The problems Wolf cited ranged from sub-par passport technology to a failure to sufficiently exchange information on terrorism suspects and criminals.
Belarus, which had been under consideration for inclusion, took steps to remedy deficiencies in recent months and will not face visa restrictions, Wolf said.
The United States will suspend the issuance of visas that can lead to permanent residency for nationals of Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Nigeria, a presidential proclamation said. Temporary visas for tourists, businesspeople, students and workers from those nations will not be affected, it said.
The US government also will stop issuing “diversity visas” to nationals of Sudan and Tanzania, the proclamation said. The visas, which Trump has criticized, are available by lottery for applicants from countries with low rates of immigration.
(Graphic on visas: https://tmsnrt.rs/36Hy2zz)
“These countries, for the most part, want to be helpful,” Wolf said, “but for a variety of different reasons simply failed to meet those minimum requirements that we laid out.”
The original travel ban barred nearly all immigrants and travelers from seven countries with majority Muslim populations. The policy was revised amid court challenges, but the US Supreme Court ultimately upheld it in June 2018.
Trump has made cracking down on immigration a focus of his 2020 re-election campaign. His travel ban policy is popular with Republican supporters.
The existing version of the ban includes Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. North Korea and Venezuela also face visa bars, but those measures affect relatively few travelers. Those restrictions will remain in place.
The new travel ban will take effect on Feb. 21, according to the proclamation.

MOST VISAS FROM NIGERIA
US Representative Joe Neguse, a Democrat from Colorado and son of Eritrean refugees, said the updated ban unfairly singled out allied African nations.
“It is un-American to discriminate against immigrants solely because of where they come from or how they pray,” Neguse told reporters.
In 2015, when he was running for president, Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
Three nations included in the updated ban — Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria and Sudan — have majority Muslim populations. Eritrea and Tanzania have sizable Muslim minorities.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized the ban, calling it “discrimination disguised as policy.” She said the Democrats would introduce legislation barring religious discrimination in the US immigration system within a few weeks.
Nigeria sends the most immigrants to the United States. The US State Department issued approximately 7,900 immigrant visas to Nigerians in fiscal year 2018, which began Oct. 1, 2017.
Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister, said he was “disappointed” by the decision. The US State Department will host meetings in Washington on Monday and Tuesday with Onyeama, other officials and business leaders.
The administration said the new ban was narrowly tailored.
Investor visas, which lead to permanent residence, will also be barred. But the restrictions will not apply to skilled foreign workers entering the United States on H-1B visas, according to a DHS official who briefed reporters. Such visas are temporary, but can lead to permanent residence.
Immigrants already in the United States, or who have approved visas will be exempt from the ban, the official said. People with pending visa requests, some of whom have waited years, will be barred.
All applicants will be able to apply for a waiver, a process already in place under Trump’s existing ban. But a federal lawsuit challenging the administration says the waiver process is opaque and difficult to navigate.
The visa restrictions will not apply to refugees, according to the official. Trump’s administration has separately capped the number of refugees allowed into the United States at 18,000 for the 2020 fiscal year, the lowest level in decades.
 


Afghanistan to free 900 more Taliban prisoners

Updated 33 sec ago

Afghanistan to free 900 more Taliban prisoners

KABUL: Afghan authorities plan to release 900 more Taliban prisoners Tuesday, as a rare cease-fire by the insurgents entered its third and last day.
The pause in fighting, which came into effect Sunday to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Fitr, was for the most part holding out across the country, officials said.
The government earlier responded to the Taliban’s cease-fire offer by announcing plans to release up to 2,000 insurgent prisoners.
On Monday they freed 100 people and will release another 900 on Tuesday, the government said, the biggest group of Taliban prisoners freed so far.
“There is a decision to release 900 today,” National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal told AFP.
But the exact number could vary subject to legal procedures, he added.
The cease-fire, only the second of its kind in the 19-year-old conflict, has raised hopes of an extended truce that could pave the way for long-awaited peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government.
President Ashraf Ghani has said his administration is ready to begin the negotiations, seen as key to ending the war in the impoverished country.
On Tuesday officials said the cease-fire, the country’s first initiated by the Taliban, had largely been observed.
The only other comparable pause in violence came over Eid in 2018, an olive branch offered by Ghani.
Violence in Afghanistan escalated after the Taliban signed a deal with Washington in February to withdraw all US forces by next year.
The agreement also stipulated the Afghan government would first release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and the militants would free about 1,000 national security personnel.
Prior to this week’s releases, Kabul had already freed about 1,000 Taliban inmates, while the insurgents had let go about 300 Afghan security forces captives.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has welcomed the cease-fire, and said the freed Taliban fighters should not return to the battlefield.