The United States has announced a plan to curb legal immigration from six additional countries that officials say do not meet the country’s security standards as part of an election-year push to further restrict immigration.
- Immigrants from Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania will face new restrictions in obtaining certain US visas
- The restrictions do not go as far as Mr Trump’s travel ban which suspended travel from several Muslim majority countries
- Immigration was a signature issue in Mr Trump’s successful 2016 election campaign
US Homeland Security officials said immigrants from Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania will face new restrictions in obtaining certain visas to come to the United States.
But it is not a total travel ban, unlike President Donald Trump’s earlier effort that generated outrage around the world for unfairly targeting Muslims.
Mr Trump was expected to sign a proclamation on the restrictions in the coming days and the restrictions would go into effect on February 21.
The announcement comes as Mr Trump tries to promote his administration’s crackdown on immigration, highlighting a signature issue that motivated his supporters in 2016 and hoping it has the same effect in this November’s presidential election.
The Trump administration recently announced a crackdown on ‘birth tourism’ and is noting the sharp decline in crossings at the US-Mexico border and citing progress on building the border wall.
Immigrant visas, the type of visa given to people seeking to live in the US permanently, were restricted for Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Eritrea, Nigeria. They include visas for people sponsored by family members or employers as well as the diversity visa program.
The US will also stop granting diversity visas, commonly known as the ‘green card lottery’, to people in Sudan and Tanzania. The State Department uses a digital lottery to select people from around the world for up to 55,000 diversity visas.
Non-immigrant visas, which are given to people travelling to the US for a temporary stay, are not affected. These visas include those for tourists, those doing business or people seeking medical treatment.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said officials would work with the countries on bolstering their security requirements to help them 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 US, but for a variety of different reasons failed to meet those minimum requirements,” Mr Wolf said.
Rumours swirled for weeks about a potential new ban, and initially, Belarus was considered.
But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was headed to the Eastern European nation as the restrictions were released and Belarus was not on the list.
Mr Wolf said some nations were able to comply with the new standards in time.
Critics argued travel ban targeted Muslim countries
The current restrictions follow Mr Trump’s travel ban, which the Supreme Court upheld as lawful in 2018.
They do not go as far as Mr Trump’s initial ban, which had suspended travel from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen for 90 days, blocked refugee admissions for 120 days, and suspended travel from Syria.
The Government suspended most immigrant and non-immigrant visas to applicants from those countries.
Mr Trump has said a travel ban is necessary to protect Americans.
But opponents have argued that he seeks to target Muslim countries, pointing to comments he made as a candidate in 2015 calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on”.
The seven countries with considerably more restrictions include nations with little or no diplomatic relationship to the US.
They include five majority-Muslim nations: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. Sudan and Kyrgyzstan are majority-Muslim countries.
Nigeria is about evenly split between Christians and Muslims but has the world’s fifth-largest population of Muslims, according to the Pew Research Centre.
Mr Wolf said immigrant visas were chosen because people with those visas were the most difficult to remove after arriving in the United States.