US President Donald Trump on Friday added six countries to the nations facing stringent travel restrictions, virtually blocking immigration from Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, and from Myanmar, where refugees are fleeing genocide.
Beside Nigeria, varying degrees of restrictions will hit three other African countries, Eritrea, Sudan and Tanzania, and one former Soviet state, Kyrgyzstan. Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya could also be caught in the crossfire. The total number of countries on the restricted travel list now stands at 13.
Immigrant visas, issued mostly to foreigners intending to live in the United States, will be banned from Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea and Kyrgyzstan. The ban would prevent immigrants from Sudan and Tanzania from obtaining diversity visas. Homeland Security and State Department officials said some immigrants would be able to obtain waivers from the restrictions.
The proclamation, which President Trump was expected to sign on Friday, will take effect on February 22.
The administration has argued that the ban, enacted in 2017 to restrict travel from Muslim-majority countries, is necessary to ensure that countries satisfy security requirements for travel into the United States, or face restrictions until they do.
The expansion of the restrictions, which already affected more than 135 million people in seven countries, is likely to hinder more than 12,300 potential immigrants from resettling in the United States or reuniting with their family. The effect on Nigeria, not only Africa’s most populous country but also its largest economy, could be particularly severe.
A United States government official said the administration was adding Nigeria and Tanzania to the list because of the number of people who come from the African countries on a visa and end up illegally staying in the United States. The official said Sudan and Eritrea had not satisfied the administration’s information-sharing requirements.
The extension of the travel ban comes at a delicate time for international travel. American Airlines and Delta Air Lines began on Friday to voluntarily curtail flights to the United States from China to combat the coronavirus, and further restrictions are likely.
But it also comes as the 2020 election heats up. Mr. Trump is expected to use his travel ban, as well as his efforts to cut refugee admissions, to rally his political base as his administration contends with a Senate impeachment trial.
Immigrants, citizens and students have already experienced the effect of Mr. Trump’s increased vetting at ports throughout the border.
“We’re adding a couple of countries,” Mr. Trump said last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We have to be safe. Our country has to be safe. You see what’s going on in the world. Our country has to be safe.”
The administration has contended that the countries on the list have harbored terrorists, maintained outdated passport systems or failed to ensure adequate information sharing. Mr. Trump has also made disparaging comments about African nations in the past, complaining that Nigerians who entered the United States on visas would never “go back to their huts.”
Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, said Nigerian officials had not been advised their country would be included in the ban.
“It would be quite unfortunate if for any reason Nigeria were on the list,” Mr. Mohammed said, noting the two government’s cooperation in combating terrorism. “It would be a double jeopardy: The country has committed a lot of resources to fight terrorism. Any travel ban cannot but be inimical to the growth of the country.”
He added, “Once a travel ban is imposed on a country, the consequences are not always pleasant.”