WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced late Jan. 31 it will impose travel restrictions on six new countries in Africa and Asia, a decision that was roundly criticized by faith-based groups and immigration advocates.
The countries are Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan, Tanzania, Eritrea, Sudan and Myanmar, also known as Burma; the new restrictions go into effect Feb. 22.
Since 2018, under a policy upheld by the Supreme Court, the administration has restricted entry from seven countries to varying degrees: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, along with Venezuela and North Korea.
“This policy has been devastating to thousands of men, women and children whose only beacon of hope is the safety and prosperity that America can offer,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. LIRS is one of the largest refugee resettlement agencies in the nation.
“How can we look at ourselves in the mirror knowing that we are doing less and less, especially when an unprecedented global refugee crisis calls for swift, bold action from the world’s humanitarian leader?” she added in a Jan. 31 statement.
The announcement on the new travel restrictions was made by administration officials in a late afternoon phone briefing with reporters. News reports said the extended policy is not a “total” ban on travel but imposes new restrictions on certain visas for people from these countries who want to come to the United States.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said the agency’s 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.
In her statement, O’Mara Vignarajah said LIRS is “particularly concerned about Burmese refugees who may see America’s doors closed to them at a time of desperate need — including thousands of ethnic Chin, Karen and Muslim Rohingya, who have fled severe persecution.” Myanmar also also known as Burma.
“Nearly 5,000 Burmese refugees started to rebuild their lives in America last year, many of whom seek to reunite with family still in harm’s way,” she added.