US POLITICS

As Biden Prepares To Reverse Trump’s Travel Ban On Some Muslim Countries

On his first day in office, US President-elect Joe Biden plans to issue a number of executive orders, including one rescinding the controversial travel ban on several predominantly Muslim countries.

According to a memo circulated on Saturday by Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming White House chief of staff, the new US administration will launch a spate of reversals on policies implemented by US President Donald Trump over its first 10 days in office.

These also include new coronavirus prevention efforts, rejoining the Paris climate change accord, and immigration legislation allowing for millions to gain citizenship.

Shortly after taking office in 2017, Trump issued an executive order that banned travellers from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States.

That order was, however, reworked several times amid legal challenges and a version of it was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2018.

‘Poison of hate’

Analysts say the ban could easily be undone as it was issued by executive order and presidential proclamation, though lawsuits from conservative opponents could delay the process.

“As president, I’ll work with you to rip the poison of hate from our society to honour your contributions and seek your ideas. My administration will look like America, with Muslim Americans serving at every level,” Biden said in October.

Other reversals include the extension of pandemic-related limits on evictions and student loan payments, the imposition of mask mandates in federal property and interstate travel, as well as a solution to reunite immigrant children separated from their families, the memo said.

Biden also plans to submit new legislation to provide for the naturalisation of 11 million undocumented people currently living in the country, in addition to a pledge to vaccinate 100 million people in his first 100 days in office.

Biden had previously announced he will push Congress to approve a $1.9bn stimulus package to tackle an economic slump caused by the coronavirus.

As part of the new visa restrictions introduced by the Trump administration, as a result of the ban, US stopped issuing immigrant visas to Nigerian applicants.

While Nigeria is not the only country affected by the “ban” (Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar also faced similar restrictions while Tanzania and Sudan were excluded from the United States’ popular visa lottery scheme). It is, by far, the most high profile country affected by what the Trump administration describes as a penalty for unsatisfactory security and information sharing standards.

While focused only on immigrant visas, the net impact of the expected reversal is far-reaching, from families reunion to increased employment opportunities. 

More than anything else, this reversal will send a favourable signal to investors that are interested in doing business in Nigeria. One of the negative impact of Visa restrictions is that it creates extra skepticism among people that might be interested in the country. 

The expected Biden visa regime will be a huge boost to Nigeria’s tech ecosystem, which has until Trump’s ban grown into been the continent’s most dominant. Over the past decade, global tech companies including Google and Facebook have looked to deepen their roots in Africa’s largest internet market. Nigeria is also increasingly bagging more startup funding—most of which has so far come from US-based venture funds—than any other African country. With the growing number of startup success stories over the past decade, renowned accelerator programs like Silicon Valley’s Y Combinator have also become a lot more recipient of applications from Nigeria. It would be recalled that last year, Nigeria recorded the largest global drop-off in visitors to the US.

In fact, the string of visa clampdown measures imposed on Africa’s largest economy last year have already impacting tech industry personnel. That is why the expected Biden Visa regime is a silver lining. 

With Nigerians being the most educated immigrants in the US, there’s been a swelling of talent in business and professional circles, including some of the world’s biggest companies. It follows a long history of the US as a popular destination for Nigerians seeking tertiary education (economic spending of Nigerian students in the US last year reached $514 million) with the aim of getting employed in the US and, possibly, resettling there after obtaining green cards. This will further receive a boost. 

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