By Antony Mutunga
Donald Trump was very clear where he stood on immigration before he was elected. He wanted America to be just for Americans. When he assumed office, he immediately started working on travel bans for countries that had a large Muslim populations. He announced travel bans on countries such as Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Protests and a federal court order stopped his zeal momentarily until 2018 when the Supreme Court upheld an amended version of Trump’s ban.
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The amended version restricts entry of some citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, Venezuela and North Korea. Now President Trump has expanded the travel ban to impose visa restrictions on more countries, including Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania. According to the department of Homeland Security, these countries have failed to reach up to the US security and information-sharing standards.
The ban, which took effect in January is not expected to affect all of the countries the same way. For instance, in the case of Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, Eritrea, Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan, a majority of citizens will not be able to obtain immigrant visas, even for those sponsored by employers, family or are part of the green card lottery/diversity visa program. Thus unable to get immigration visas, the citizens will also have little to no chance of obtaining green cards.
Despite being barred from immigrant visas, some individuals may still qualify for a special immigrant visa which is normally given to those who have provided assistance to the US government. On the other hand, in the case of Sudan and Tanzania, citizens have been barred from participating in the green card lottery program which makes a limited number of visas available every year. The program focuses on citizens of countries that have a low number of immigrants going to the US.
The ban is set to affect more than a fifth of the African population. Citizens from the affected countries have been left in a dilemma, especially for those who long to be reunited with their families. For example, many Nigerians who have families leaving in the US will have to wait longer for the opportunity to join them there. With the ban in place, these citizens might only visit as tourists for now. According to Grace Meng, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, the fact that a majority are seeking to reunite with family in the US, the ban will not only affect the citizens from the affected countries, it will also affect US families and communities.
The majority of those in the US are already in a state of panic as they are unsure whether they will be able to renew their papers as a result of the ban. As a result, if one is undocumented, they are at risk of being deported back to their home country. This would also see the US lose as it would be getting rid of individuals who contribute to its economy. According to data from the New American Economy, a research non-profit, in 2015, African immigrants earned Sh5.5 trillion ($55.1 billion) with households paying Sh1.01 trillion ($10.1 billion) in federal taxes and Sh472 billion ($4.7 billion) in state and local taxes. This gave African immigrants an estimated spending power of over Sh4.05 trillion ($40.3 billion) in 2015.
Apart from losing capable individuals, with the ban, the US government may have taken a step back in handling the growing influence of Russia and China in Africa. China and Russia have bolstered their presence in the continent by building relations with African rulers through financial and military aid. For instance, Russia has approached Eritrea on wanting to build a major logistics base in the country due to its strategic location in the red sea. If this deal is to happen, then the base will rival that of the US in Djibouti.
Russia also helped Nigeria by offering military aid to help deal with the extremist insurgency in the country. China, on the other hand, has offered financial support in helping African countries improve their infrastructure. With the US getting on the bad side of most Africans with the ban, these two countries will continue to gather popularity and have an advantage over the superpower.
Lastly, the ban is set to affect even those who were not planning to travel and get green cards in the US. The ban will see the number of immigrants going to US drop thus affecting future remittances that will have been sent back to African countries. According to data from the World Bank, remittances to Sub-Saharan Africa grew almost 10 percent to Sh4.6 trillion ($46 billion) in 2018. With a majority of the remittances used to start businesses, the ban is set to see this number drop. Thus, the contribution remittances have on the African economy will decrease affecting jobs and income.
Several countries that have been affected such as Nigeria have created committees to address the issues mentioned by Homeland Security so as to be reinstated. Many believe that President Trump is using the move as a way of campaigning for a second term in office as immigration is one of the determining topics. If the ban continues and includes more African countries, the move might come back to haunt him, as China and Russia continue to get the upper hand in the African continent. (