WASHINGTON, DC, 21 January 2021 – One in five Africans impacted by the US travel ban are relieved after President Joe Biden rescinded the ban in his first hours in office Wednesday.
Nationals from three African countries – Libya, Somalia and Sudan – were among the first people banned from visiting the United States under the first Executive Order which former US President Trump signed on 27 January 2017.
Chad was later added to the list of the initial three African countries included in the first ban, alongside Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
All the countries targeted by the first ban and revisions of it are majority Muslim countries.
In rescinding the ban Wednesday, Presient Biden said the actions of his predecessor constitute “a stain on our national conscience and are inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all”.
The ban indefinitely suspended entry to the US for all Syrian refugees and banned any other refugees from coming into the United States for 120 days.
Implementation of the ban was cruel and it did not take long for rights groups to challenge it in court.
A federal judge in New York issued a nationwide temporary injunction blocking the deportation of people from the targeted countries who were stranded at airports across the United States soon after the ban was issued.
The first two versions of the ban were deemed unconstitutional in federal court due to its obvious targeting of Muslim travelers.
Chad was taken off the list of targeted countries in 2018, the same year that the US Supreme Court ruled along party lines to uphold the third version of the ban.
That version of the revised Trump Executive Order banned travel from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and travel by some individuals from Venezuela.
President Trump issued an expanded travel ban in February 2020, adding six countries to the list, four of them African: Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania.
President Trump’s Department of Homeland Security said the countries added to the travel ban in February 2020 reportedly failed to meet security criteria.
Critics of President Trump joked that the criteria were probably summarized in Trump’s reference to African nations along with Haiti and El Salvador as “s—hole” countries.
Under the expanded vesion, “Diversity visas” were suspended for Tanzanian and Sudanese nationals.
US embassies suspended issuance of visas to nationals of the targeted countries, notably all visas that could lead to permanent residence in the Untied States.
People from the targeted countries who were coming to the US with special skills, those coming as students and those coming to do some forms of temporary work were, in principle, not impacted.
In practice, only Africans from the countries targeted were heavily impacted, including people who could have qualified for visas, who understood the ban to mean that they were not welcome to visit the United States.
In practice, however, the ban had an impact on more Africans than those coming from the targeted countries.
Democrats voiced opposition to the travel ban from the very beginning, decrying its discriminatory nature, and vowed to overturn it.
The Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi called it “outrageous” and “un-American”. It is a threat to American “security, our values and the rule of law,” Pelosi added.
Candidate Joe Biden and, ever since Wednesday, President Joe Biden, agreed with Pelosi, noting that the actions of the Trump administration undermined US national security. President Joe Biden began the repair of that harm to US security by rescinding the travel ban on Wednesday.