By Josh Leach on February 4, 2020
January 27, 2020 marked three years since the Trump administration imposed a ban on travelers from several Muslim-majority countries, a policy the President himself described as a version of the “Muslim Ban” he demanded on the campaign trail. Now, the administration is doubling down on this racist and demeaning policy. Just days after the ban’s three-year anniversary, Trump announced it would expand to six other African and Asian countries: Myanmar (Burma), Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan, Eritrea, Sudan, and Tanzania.
The government’s stated rationale lacks any basis in fact or national security. Over the last three years, Trump has repeatedly shifted the purported justification of the travel ban, in an effort to avoid legal challenges. While he keeps inventing new pretexts, however, his racist comments about immigrants of color betray the ban’s true purpose. In all its forms, this policy violates freedom of religion, equal protection under the law, and other human rights.
The latest restrictions will take different forms, depending on the country. Immigrants from Burma, Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan, and Eritrea will lose the ability to apply for green cards. Sudanese and Tanzanian nationals will be barred from participating in the Diversity Visa program.
These inconsistent rules—singling out countries in Africa with large Muslim communities—are redolent of the Islamophobia and anti-Blackness underlying the administration’s agenda. Trump has repeatedly spread racist falsehoods about the Diversity Visa, for instance, which is primarily utilized by African immigrants to the United States.
Another consequence of the ban is that even fewer individuals will be able to escape persecution in their countries of origin. The government of Eritrea, for example, has a regime of forced military service, and immigrants returned to the country often face arbitrary arrest and torture. Burma was recently subjected to preventive measures by an international court due to its ongoing genocide of the Rohingya Muslim minority, which UUSC has protested for years.
Notwithstanding these human rights crises, however, the administration has blocked critical avenues for Burmese and Eritrean people to reach safety and reunite with their loved ones. Earlier, Trump imposed visa restrictions on both countries (unrelated to the targeted human rights sanctions against some Burmese military leaders, which UUSC supports). The purpose was clearly stated: to compel both governments to process more deportations from the United States. Such measures guarantee that more people will be placed in harm’s way. The most recent travel restrictions, imposed under the ban, further this disastrous policy.
The new restrictions will reportedly not apply to people seeking refuge through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. This is cold comfort, however, because the Trump administration has already cut refugee admissions to historic lows, all but ending third-country resettlement in the United States. Taken together, these policies leave precious few paths of escape for people facing injustice and danger in Burma and Eritrea, or any of the other countries subject to the ban. They also mean that many refugees from these countries living in the United States will be unable to reunite with family members still overseas.
We are not powerless to resist this policy. UUSC advocates have repeatedly called on Congress to take up and pass the NO BAN Act, which would end the Muslim Ban and ensure it can never be imposed again. Recently, House leadership pledged to bring this bill to a vote. You can sign UUSC’s petition to call on members of both chambers of Congress to make good on this promise and pass the NO BAN Act into law. UUSC began this petition after a recent escalation in tensions between the United States and Iran. Now, with the expansion of the travel ban, this message is more timely than ever.
UUSC’s partner The UndocuBlack Network reminds us, “The reasons keep changing about why it is that the Trump administration wants to keep black and brown people out. And that’s because there is no honest reason, except for racism and xenophobia. Behind these bans and visa sanctions are real people with real families—facing the pain and uncertainty that family separation brings.” For their sake and the sake of human rights, please join us in urging Congress to take action now.
Photo Credit: iStock – VallarieE
About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!