By Mohammed M. Mupenda
A top US Senator Mark Warner has expressed his commitment to advocate for Immigrants to have their rights to live in the United States of American and equally enjoy rights to meet, reunite, live together with their families.
Warner announced the commitment on no ban act to support immigrants last week, during the West Africa Diaspora Community Leaders meeting that was held remotely due to Coronavirus.
President Donald Trump has since presided over a crackdown on the immigration system at large with controversial policies including travel ban, visa restrictions, and reducing the cap of refugee resettlement from some African countries. More than 79,700 visas have been subject to the ban since December 2017, according to the State Department.
Refugees have proven a particularly easy target, given that they don’t have to be deported or caged in controversial camps on U.S. soil — they can be blocked before they ever get in the U.S simply by denying visas or setting restrictions unattainably high.
Since taking office, Trump’s administration has slashed the cap for refugees each year, driving it down to the lowest levels in four decades. The maximum for 2020 is even lower.
The policy took even some of Mr. Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security officials by surprise and prompted widespread confusion at airports across the nation.
This decision has also left many immigrants living in the US waiting with no hope to have their families and the expansion of the travel ban has closed off another avenue for many seeking safety or family reunification.
President Obama set the cap for the 2017 fiscal year at 110,000 refugees as he left office, but Trump slashed it to 50,000 during his first year in the White House, followed by 45,000 in 2018 and 30,000 in fiscal year 2019, the lowest total since Congress passed the United States Refugee Act of 1980, creating the country’s modern refugee resettlement program. The Trump administration has dropped the ceiling ever further — to 18,000 refugees — for 2020.
Across the country, resettlement centers are finding themselves with excess capacity in the age of Trump.
The International Institute resettled more than 1,100 refugees in 2016 during Obama’s last year in office. In 2018, that number was just 177. To keep up with the shift, the institute has reduced the staff dedicated to refugee resettlement to the equivalent of five full-time positions from more than 22 three years ago.
They have cut the number of English classes and are considering other ways to reconfigure their offerings if the trend continues. But smaller providers with less variety in their services are starting to drop away and others won’t last much longer, Anna Closslin, Executive Director of International Institute was quoted by RFT U.S local newspaper in 2019.
But Trump’s policy has always been challenged by many legal entities, Democrats, resettlement agencies and activists.
“President Trump and his administration’s continued disdain for our nation’s national security and our founding ideals of liberty and justice dishonor our proud immigrant heritage and the diversity that strengthens and enriches our communities,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said in a statement early this year.
Mohamud Noor, a Somali-American activist in the Minneapolis area, home to one of the largest Somali immigrant communities, said the Supreme Court decision was devastating to many who wanted relatives in their homeland to legally join them.
“I think we were expecting the Supreme Court would stand on moral grounds,” Mr. Noor said. “We live in America. This is a land of immigrants.”
Warner said it would only be possible when the regional travel ban act is abolished. The Regional Travel Ban Act has been in existence in the USA for years despite more voices having been raised.
The Trump administration in the White House has been consistent in restricting free movement of immigrants and even his predecessor Barack Obama had tried to abolish travel bans all in vain, says Senator Warner
“Obviously, I have opposed the regional travel ban, I am also proud to sponsor the national origin based anti-discrimination travel ban act also called no ban act,” Warner told West Africa Community leaders in a zoom meeting.
According to Warner, who is also a member of Democratic Party and the Vice Chair of the senate Democratic Caucus and the Vice chair of Senate Intelligence Committee, nothing would change if the white House administration changes.
“But the truth is until we change who sits in the white house, I don’t think this policy is going to change,” he said
He stressed that the U.S senate has been willing to vote against the no ban act that would allow immigrants enjoy their rights to reunite with families among
“But we have not had an opportunity to vote on it, the no ban act is already passed in the White House,” he noted.
Warner assured immigrants of his full support and commitment to advocate for their rights adding that he believed in their rights to live, move freely, reunite with family members among other basic rights in the USA.
President Trump earlier this year added six countries to his list of nations facing stringent travel restrictions, those African countries include Africa’s biggest country, Nigeria along with, Eritrea, Sudan and Tanzania. The move has virtually blocked immigration from Africa’s most populous nation Nigeria, where the Muslim minority is fleeing genocide.
“You have my commitment on the no ban act, you have my commitment and that needs to become a top priority,” he assured the immigrants.
However, calls and advocacy at no ban act, the travel restrictions among the Africans countries, seem to be unheard and could be unjustified. The officials said Sudan remained a state sponsor of terrorism, even though the country has transitioned to a civilian-run government from one ruled by its military.
While Nigeria has partnered with the American military, the officials noted an “elevated risk and threat environment in the country,” when justifying the travel restrictions.
But before the announcement for this year, an American government official said the administration planned to add Nigeria and Tanzania to the list because of the number of people coming from those countries on a visa who end up staying in the United States illegally “Immigrant visas, issued to those seeking to live in the United States, will be banned for Nigeria, Eritrea and The ban will also prevent immigrants from Sudan and Tanzania from moving to the United States through the diversity visa lottery, which grants green cards to as many as 50,000 people a year,”.
The proclamation took effect on Feb. 22. But Immigrants who obtain visas before then will still be able to travel to the United States, according to DHS officials.
Nonimmigrant visas, including those for students and certain temporary workers, as well as visas reserved for potential employees with specialized skills, will not be affected by the ban.
Officials with the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department who briefed reporters early this year on the condition of anonymity said Eritrea, Tanzania were being added to the list because each country had either had not satisfied the administration’s information-sharing requirements related to terrorism or did not have updated passport systems.
Mr. Trump signed an executive order that closed the country’s borders to people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, making partial good on a campaign pledge “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
*Mohammed M. Mupenda is a news correspondent and freelance reporter, who has written for publications in the United States and abroad. He is also a French and East African language interpreter.