Amid the din of the final days of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, his effort to keep America white almost failed to register. Announced in late January and set to take effect on February 22, the latest expansion of the administration’s travel ban imposes severe immigration restrictions on six more countries—Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, Eritrea, Sudan, Tanzania, and Nigeria—bringing the total number of banned nations to thirteen and affecting more than a quarter of a billion people in Africa alone.
That the president should seek to deny entry to the persecuted Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Myanmar, is hardly surprising, given his known hostility toward vulnerable religious minorities. But why target Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and a key U.S. trading partner? True, Nigeria is technically majority-Muslim (51 per cent), but it also has the world’s sixth-largest Christian population (about 86.5 million people). The ban, which “blindsided” Nigeria’s foreign minister on the eve of a planned diplomatic visit to Washington, also harms a sizable number of American citizens and permanent residents of Nigerian origin—many of whom occupy middle-class professions in science, medicine, and academia. Nigerians constitute the largest community of African immigrants currently residing in the United States. About 327,000 strong, they’re largely concentrated in cities like Dallas, Chicago, Baltimore, Atlanta, Phoenix, and Houston. Reports of confusion and anxiety have already emerged from cities like New York, where Nigerian-Americans have been forced to postpone weddings, cancel family reunions, and stop wage remittances.