Donald Trump has issued yet another Executive Order banning millions more people — mainly from the continent of Africa — from entry into the United States. His principal targets are all people who hail from Eritrea, Nigeria — Africa’s most populous country — and Myanmar, where a systematic genocide against the Muslim minority is being carried out even as we speak. Kyrgyzstan seems to have been added so as not to appear completely and totally racist and Islamophobic. The ban against these countries will take effect on February 21.
And in keeping with his African theme, Sudan and Tanzania are now ineligible to immigrate to the US through the “diversity lottery,” which annually grants green cards for up to 50,000 people from nations that send relatively few immigrants to the US.
Using Muslims as the Template
This, in fact, is the third iteration of the Trump regime’s dogged efforts to excise Muslims from the American body politic. Trump first proposed a Muslim ban while still campaigning for the presidency. In a December 2015 speech, he called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
Once firmly ensconced in office in early 2017, Trump issued his infamous Executive Order fulfilling that 2015 campaign pledge to ban all Muslims from entering the country. Several federal courts initially blocked the order’s implementation after a number of states sued on religious liberties grounds. But the “conservative,” GOP-dominated US Supreme Court promptly reversed all lower courts and green-lit the regime’s push to discriminate against followers of the world’s second largest religion.
This freshly minted African ban will do irreparable harm in the same way that Trump’s southern border outrages have hurt Latin American asylum seekers. That is, it will separate the many African-born US citizens from their children and vice versa. It will separate spouses. It will halt all small business trade and commerce between the affected nations and black US citizen-entrepreneurs — all under the paper thin ruse of enhancing US “national security.”
In terms of national security, Trump’s Executive Order argues that five of the targeted countries fail to comply with US information-sharing requirements. As for Sudan, its passport technology is deemed insufficient to protect and secure the “diversity lottery.” Taken together, these six African nations, according to Trump and company, do not meet US vetting standards for purposes of immigrating to the United States.
Who can argue with that? “Security,” national and international, is a major concern of every nation-state in today’s terrorism-conscious world.
Trump’s racism against American black people has been demonstrated and well documented. That includes a history reaching back to the 1970s. So I will not belabor his personal racist vibes here.
However, his racism toward black Africans only became clear once he reached the office of the presidency. When discussing immigration from Africa and Haiti with a bipartisan group of senators, Trump asked why America should want or allow immigrants from “all these shithole countries” into the country. And, in the very next breath he said that the US should encourage more people from countries like Norway, one of the whitest countries on the planet, of course.
When he later spoke of granting visas to Nigerians, this man, this “president,” said publicly that once Nigerians had seen the United States, they would never “go back to their huts” in Africa.
This is white racism/white supremacy pure and simple. It is immigration policy disguised under a patina of national security concerns.
The Supreme Court
And as stated, the Supreme Court, via Chief Justice John Roberts, wrote in Hawaii v. Trump that the president has virtually unlimited authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act to “suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens” whenever he “finds” that their entry “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.” Of course, the right-wing, “conservative” majority on the Court refused to interrogate the actual language of the president’s executive order and disavow the clear racial and racist animus motivating and underlying the Muslim ban.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent in Hawaii, nevertheless, did point to “the stark parallels between the reasoning” of this Muslim ban case and that of Korematsu v. United States, the infamous 1944 decision which placed judicial imprimatur on the internment of Japanese Americans based on “an ill-defined national-security threat” where “there was strong evidence that impermissible hostility and animus motivated the Government’s policy.”
As for this most recent African ban, Trump’s lawyers were careful to adhere to the dictates laid down by the Court in Trump v. Hawaii. That is, they prominently cited the old bugaboo of national security. They also understood that Trump’s racist statements will probably not sway that same right-wing majority on the Supreme Court to strike down this latest ban.
And so, the African ban and the Muslim ban, collectively, restricted immigration from the six newly targeted countries, as well as all immigrants from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and some from Venezuela.
Norwegians, however, as are all Scandinavians, most Europeans, and Australians are still welcome.
A Little History
Racialized immigration policy is not new in this country. In fact, it has a long history and may be considered as “normal operating procedure.”
In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was the first federal law which prevented a specific nationality from immigrating to the US and from becoming naturalized citizens. That legislation was promoted and passed in response to white peoples’ concern about Chinese “immigration … in numbers approaching the character of an Oriental invasion” that would pose “a menace to our civilization.” (Sound familiar?).
The Exclusion Act was later extended, and in 1902, Chinese immigration was halted altogether and indefinitely. Why the Chinese? They had first been “welcomed” to come to America to build the railroads in California and the West. But as their numbers exploded, along with the many “China Town” sections wherever they lived, America’s “good ole boy” white men began to feel threatened by the opium-smoking, drug-crazed “China Men” who supposedly “lusted” after their helpless, innocent and vulnerable white women — among other things.
The Supreme Court turned a blind eye to all attempts to reverse or even address the obvious racism at the heart of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
And then came the Immigration Act of 1924, which effectively banned all immigration from Asia and severely restricted immigration from eastern and southern Europe. Indeed, not until the turbulent 1960s, and passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, were national origin quotas finally abolished. In ’65, the US lifted its racist bans on those selfsame Asians and eastern and southern Europeans.
What was/is “racist” about a ban on eastern and southern Europeans? Aren’t they considered “white” and have millions and millions of native-born cousins already established in the US? In thoroughly “color conscious” America, eastern and southern European folk have historically been viewed as often just a bit too “swarthy” for polite company. Indeed, “those people” have had to deal with a uniquely American version of “ethnic” discrimination of their own.
Fast-Forward to 2020.
The African ban is merely latest sign, therefore, that the current American socio-political regime is retreading tried and true white racism/white supremacy and using it as fuel for immigration policy in order to resurrect and openly, consciously further a racial/racist agenda.
As a backdrop to all of this, of course, the Trump regime has essentially closed the southern US border to asylum-seekers. It has suspended the visa interview waiver program. It has hiked visa application fees. And Trump is in the process of actually, physically punishing those immigrants who seek or already receive public benefits. Trump and company relentlessly surveill immigrants’ social media accounts, and have actually denaturalized any number of US citizens who have successfully completed the arduous, years-long process of finally getting themselves “legal.”
And, as I trust this brief history has shown, it is a waste of time and energy to defer to the courts for remedies to this current and centuries-long xenophobic and racist immigration policy.
What about Congress?
Democrats in Congress have introduced the “National Origin-Based Anti-discrimination for Non-immigrants (NO BAN) Act”. This bill would repeal the Muslim ban, broaden the Immigration and Nationality Act’s nondiscrimination clause to specifically prohibit religion-based discrimination, and limit executive authority to prevent any president from issuing future bans based on racism and xenophobia.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has condemned the Africa ban as “discrimination disguised as policy,” and demanded that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell move on the bill. Good luck with that, right? The Republican-controlled Senate is sure to allow it to wither on the vine (along with hundreds of other “progressive” attempts to “reform” this government and this society). That bill continues to languish on the Majority Leader’s desk, gathering dust.
A number of Democratic presidential candidates have also denounced the Africa ban.
Thus, the political reality is that the upcoming election is the only remaining chance to reverse the drive to make America into a literal, walled-off or “gated” community.