On January 31, 2020, President Trump issued a proclamation entitled "Proclamation on Improving Enhanced Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry (Trump: see also Sands)." On its face, this is hardly an effort that should cause any significant debate. As a general rule, we stand in support of the President's actions.
While reasonable people can disagree on many immigration and immigration reform questions, it is difficult to see how specifically including Nigeria, Burma (Myanmar), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, and Tanzania addresses national security needs. It is especially egregious given other nations, including, for example, Saudi Arabia, home of 15 of the 19 hijackers from the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack and, of course, Osama bin Laden, leader of al Qaeda (Golden and Rotella: see also Gerstein), not laboring under such restrictions.
We are not objecting to the concept of the President's travel restrictions. We do not use the term "travel ban" so common in the news media, what he often refers to as "fake news." We support the general idea of national security and the specific idea that secure borders are an essential component of security. We are aware that uncontrolled borders, especially the southern border, are gateways for drug smuggling, human trafficking, and, of course, the waves of caravans of illegal immigrants from Central America seen over the past two years.
We are even generally supportive of the notion of enhanced vetting of individuals wanting to enter the nation from several majority Muslim countries. We accept that there are reasons far beyond religion for many of these decisions. In some cases, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, for example, the fact that these are failed states with essentially no system in place to provide any realistically reliable background information on individuals seeking entry to the U.S. is, in and of itself, sufficient to support such restrictions.
Before getting to the specific case of Nigeria, we need to point out the inconsistencies in the program's background. The initial Executive Order, E.O. 13769, released on January 27, 2017, made specific reference to the failures of the vetting systems that allowed the attackers of September 11, 2001, to enter the country and then be, effectively, lost (Trump (2)). We agree that this is a problem but, without belaboring the point, fail to see how including Nigeria on the revised list of nations with restricted access to the United States addresses this problem.
We do not know who was advising the President on this decision, but he needs to consider using his signature phrase "you're fired" on that staffer. Nigeria is far from a failed state lacking the ability to provide a good review of those seeking to enter the U.S. We concede that there is a deep-seated history of public corruption, in part stemming from oil wealth giving vast amounts of money to spread around (Hanson). However, the nation of Nigeria is a federal republic with the central government headed by a president and significant power and authority residing in the states. The governments, at both the national and local levels, are elected through a popular vote. Nigeria has, in other words, precisely the kind of system we should be supporting.
Since gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1960, the nation has had an up and down experience with government ("Nigeria") but saw a return to the republic with democratic institutions in 1999 (Hanson). The Global Economic, a private company that analyzes such matters for businesses, shows a nation lacking in political stability. They rank nations on a scale of 2.5 (stable) to -2.5 (unstable). As shown at Exhibit No. 1 here, Nigeria is seen as quite unstable since 1999 (Nigeria: Political Stability: see also USIP Staff). Moreover, at least one terrorist group, Boko Haram, has found root in Nigeria and even with a significant state-level effort to contain and destroy this particularly vicious group (Campbell), it remains a threat to peace and stability in Nigeria.
We can see, then, the basis for the decision to include Nigeria in the expanded list of nations included in travel restrictions. We concede those points. We are asking, though, that the President reconsider this restriction as it applies to family reunification.
We reject the overwrought rhetoric expressed by Ruth Wassem, providing a contrarian opinion for the generally conservative The Hill publication ("The Hill"). We do not find that ".... people have grown accustomed to Trump's xenophobic overreaches (Wassem)." Indeed, we find nothing "xenophobic" or racist about efforts to secure borders and protect Americans. However, we find some of her arguments regarding the specific issue of Nigeria's inclusion in the travel restriction list, especially in the matter of family reunification, to be persuasive.
First, and this is important, is that Nigeria has been using the sort of biometric identification system in its passport issuance that complies with the recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organization. They have had this system in place for over a decade (Ibid.). It is precisely the type of system that the President's Executive Orders call for.
Second, Nigerians are certainly not among those arriving on our shores penniless and immediately becoming effectively wards of the state. With Nigerians the most significant component of them, Africans had, for example, some $55.1 billion in household incomes, of which they paid over $10 billion in federal taxes and another nearly $5 billion to states. These are hardworking immigrants contributing to the American economy (Ibid.).
Third, Nigerians arrive generally highly educated, over half with college degrees and very high English proficiency. Only immigrants from China and India match Nigerians in these metrics. Nigerians are seeking to become citizens of the United States, not to remain as permanent resident aliens. They tend to have private health insurance, have jobs, buy homes, and obey the law. They are precisely the kind of immigrants we seek.
These are not the terrorists or potential terrorists toward whom the travel restrictions are targeted, and this cannot be overstated. Indeed, they are precisely the opposite. Since they tend to be successful, well educated, and generally accepting of western culture and values, these immigrants are the targets for the terrorists, not the population suitable for recruitment to the radical cause.
It is the core of our plea. Those immigrants and they are immigrants, not refugees and not temporary workers, have left families behind. Simply by doing that, the families are targets. At the very least, we need to offer these immigrants a highly expedited system to bring their families to join them.
We are not calling for open borders. We are not asking that travel restrictions be dropped. We are not even asking that they be reviewed. We are simply asking that a system be developed to ensure that these specific immigrants be allowed to bring in their families to join them, something that has been part of our system for decades.
It seems that the march of Western Civilization has been, by and large, a steady progression of rules and laws to protect the weak from the strong. From the beginning, tracing back to Hammurabi or the Magna Carta, let alone the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, the government tries to ensure that "might makes right" is not how things work. There is little weaker than a mother and children trying to stay safe while terrorists roam the land. As a matter of national conscience and to keep the great American tradition of supporting the underdog alive, we need to help, not hinder, our Nigerian immigrants who are trying to protect their families.
We will close by simply saying again that we are not complaining about the broad concept of what the President is trying to accomplish. We support programs to protect Americans. We agree with the need for controlled borders to achieve that end. We want to sleep safe and know that everything that can be done to protect us.
On this one thing, though, the President has had some bad advice on Nigerians and family reunification. Please consider what we are saying. These are good people with good families and want that same sense of safety we all do.
Any help you can give would be appreciated. Can we count on your donation of $19 to help us get the word out on this humanitarian issue that needs to be addressed? For less than the price of a dinner for four at McDonald's, you can help us help some good Nigerian-American citizens reunite with the families they miss so much.
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Campbell, John. “Borno Governor Launches State-Level Initiatives to Fight Boko Harem.” Council on Foreign Relations, 11 October 2019, https://www.cfr.org/blog/borno-governor-launches-state-level-initiatives-fight-boko-haram. Accessed 22 March 2020.
Gerstein, Josh and Lin, Jeremy. “Why these 7 countries are listed on Trump’s travel ban.” Politico, 26 June 2018, https://www.politico.com/interactives/2018/trump-travel-ban-supreme-court-decision-countries-map/. Accessed 21 March 2020.
Golden, Tim and Rotella, Sebastian. “The Saudi Connection: Inside the Case That Divided the F.B.I.” The New York Times, 23 January 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/23/magazine/9-11-saudi-arabia-fbi.html. Accessed 21 March 2020.
Hanson, Stephanie. “Nigeria’s Creaky Political System.” Council on Foreign Relations, 12 April 2007, https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/nigerias-creaky-political-system. Accessed 21 March 2020.
“The Hill.” Media Bias/Fact Check, 2020, https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/the-hill/.
“Nigeria.” The World Factbook: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, 17 March 2020, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ni.html. Accessed 21 March 2020.
Nigeria: Political Stability. The Global Economy.com, 2020, https://www.theglobaleconomy.com/nigeria/wb_political_stability/.
Sands, Geneva. “Trump administration expands travel to include six new countries.” CNN, 22 February 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/31/politics/trump-administration-travel-ban-six-new-countries/index.html. Accessed 21 March 2020.
Trump, Donald (2). “Executive Order Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States (E.O. 13769).” White House: Executive Orders, 27 January 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states/. Accessed 21 March 2020.
Trump, Donald. “Proclamation on Improving Enhanced Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry.” White House: Proclamations, 31 January 2020, https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-improving-enhanced-vetting-capabilities-processes-detecting-attempted-entry/. Accessed 21 March 2020.
USIP Staff. “The Current Situation in Nigeria.” United States Institute of Peace, 1 June 2019, https://www.usip.org/publications/2019/06/current-situation-nigeria. Accessed 21 March 2020.
Wasem, Ruth. “Facts undercut the rationale for Trump’s latest travel ban.” The Hill, 10 February 2020, https://thehill.com/opinion/immigration/482081-facts-undercut-the-rationale-for-trumps-latest-travel-ban.