Nigerians in New York Worry Expanded Travel Ban Will Hurt Family Ties

The Trump administration’s expansion of the nation’s contentious travel ban on Friday to include Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, and several other countries deeply rattled immigrants, leaving some Nigerians in New York worried that it would break family ties and have a negative effect on both countries.

“Africans have very strong family ties,” said Henry Ukazu, 35, of the Bronx, warning that not allowing people from Nigeria to come to the United States to live would result in negative consequences for both the United States and Nigeria.

Mr. Ukazu, who immigrated to the United States 10 years ago, predicted that the travel ban would bring about “a level of detachment from family members, and that is not a welcome development.”

“We are not wired to be an individual,” Mr. Ukazu said. “We are raised like a bond because we are like a broom, when we are mixed together, we perform very, very well.”

Nigerians have added a lot of value to the United States, Mr. Ukazu said, but the travel ban will affect the productivity of those immigrants, possibly causing strife within families who support relatives abroad and receive support from them in return.

The expanded ban, which was announced Friday, came amid Mr. Trump’s impeachment battle in the Senate and the 2020 presidential election. It increased the number of countries on the restricted travel list to 13 from seven.

Besides Nigeria and Myanmar, where refugees are fleeing genocide, other countries affected are Eritrea, Sudan, Tanzania, and Kyrgyzstan.

The policy bans immigrant visas, which are issued to those seeking to live in the United States, for people from Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea and Kyrgyzstan. It will also prevent immigrants from Sudan and Tanzania from moving to the United States through the diversity visa lottery.

Uchenna Ekwo, 53, of the Bronx, came to the United States from Nigeria about 20 years ago. A professor at Medgar Evers College, the City University of New York, he said he saw racist elements in the policy, voiced concerns that the ban could harm cultural exchange, and warned that a blanket ban would not stop corrupt, wealthy people from buying their way into the country.

Mr. Trump has denigrated African countries in the past and once complained that Nigerians entering the United States on visas would never “go back to their huts.”

“It’s just not right to just blanket ban a group of people,” he said, later adding that criminals are the only people who should be barred from entering the country.

He cautioned that the policy would affect only poor people as the rich are able to buy homes, cars and effectively green cards.

“If the president wants to help Nigeria,” Mr. Ekwo said, “he should help by fighting corruption.”

Stressing that the world is “one village,” he voiced concerns for the possible drop in information exchange between professionals of different countries

“We live in an interconnected world,” Mr. Ekwo said. “I consider it an ill-advised policy because it’s counterproductive, it’s not going to last.”

The Trump administration has argued that the travel ban, enacted in 2017, was necessary to ensure that countries satisfy security requirements for travel into the United States, or face restrictions until they do.

In a political win for the president, the Supreme Court narrowly upheld the ban in a 5-to-4 vote in 2018, arguing that the president had ample statutory authority to make national security judgments in the realm of immigration.

The leader of a national nonprofit civic engagement organization for Muslims said in statement on Friday that news of the expanded ban was received “with deep sadness.”

“Already, the ban has ripped countless families apart, and has denied refuge to communities fleeing unimaginable persecution,” said Wa’el Alzayat, chief executive for the organization, Emgage. “It is horrific that this rejection of humanity is being expanded.”

Now is the time to “promote coalition-building and cross-community solidarity,” he said. “That is the only way we may work to defeat this unspeakably vitriolic banning of humanity, once and for all.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting.

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