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Trump’s new visa, green card restrictions are ‘about bigotry,’ says critic

On Friday, the Trump administration announced new restrictions on travel to the U.S. from six countries: Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Nigeria. It is also barring people from Sudan and Tanzania from participating in the U.S. Diversity Visa Program, which awards green cards to immigrants. Amna Nawaz reports and talks to Farhana Khera, president and executive director of Muslim Advocates.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we reported, the Trump administration announced that it will extend the travel ban to six more countries.

    The latest iteration of the ban will suspend immigrant visas for citizens from four countries: Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea and Kyrgyzstan. And it would bar people from Sudan and Tanzania from the U.S. diversity visa program, which awards green cards to immigrants.

    Our Amna Nawaz has the story.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That's right, Judy.

    And to talk about what this means we're joined by Farhana Khera. She's the president and executive director of Muslim Advocates. The group has filed 10 lawsuits against previous iterations of the travel ban, and is the driving force behind the No Ban Act in Congress. The act would rescind the travel ban and require the president to meet a more stringent standard to enact a travel ban in the future.

    Farhana, welcome to the "NewsHour."

  • Farhana Khera:

    Thank you. Thank you for having me.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, let me put to you what the administration said to us today, some senior Homeland Security and State Department officials.

    And let's take a look at the map, so people understand what we're talking about.

  • Farhana Khera:


  • Amna Nawaz:

    This is the existing travel ban that is in place right now, those seven nations. Currently citizens from there are affected, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and North Korea.

    This is the updated map, if and when this new travel ban goes into place, as they say, at the end of February. That's what the expanded map looks like, those countries we just heard there.

    Farhana, they say, the administration, this is about security, that, when these countries meet a higher standard of vetting and I.D. requirement, the administration will reassess.

    What do you say to that?

  • Farhana Khera:

    I say that's like putting lipstick on a pig, frankly, on that, because what this is really about is — unfortunately, it's about bigotry.

    The president made very clear when he was running for president that he wanted a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the country. In more recent years, he's also spoken very disdainfully about African immigrants, even saying that he thought Nigerians, once they come to America, wouldn't want to return to their huts.

    And I think what we see today, we can dispense with this notion once and for all, frankly, that this is a travel ban, because what today's ban very clearly is, is on immigrants, basically, parents who want to be reunited with their children, fiances wanting to be reunited with a spouse and who might be married to a green card holder, American citizen.

    The ban today doesn't ban visitors. So, what the president is saying, oh, come, we want your money, we want your labor, come visit here. Be a student. We want those resources. But don't make America your home.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Well, let me ask you about this, because, as Judy reported earlier as well, it's only a small portion of visas that are affected, right?

    You're talking about immigrant visas, people who want to emigrate here and stay. I think everyone out there remembers what happened after that first travel ban was enacted days after President Trump took office. There was chaos and confusion at the airports.

    It prompted protests across the country, people showing up to say, we don't want this in place. And then the Trump administration pulled it, reassessed, worked through multiple iterations. That's now been held up by the Supreme Court.

    So, this — they will say, this is legal. We have the right to be able to do this in the name of U.S. national security.

  • Farhana Khera:

    So here's the thing.

    What we know, what this policy is actually doing, it's actually ripping families apart. We see this through the eyes of our clients and our community, where literally tens of thousands of Americans are hurting today because they are not being allowed to be reunited with their family members and their loved ones.

    And it's not — it's not rooted in any kind of national security justification at all. The — we have not yet seen the administration really kind of justify or explain exactly how banning babies and grandmothers makes us safer.

    A blanket ban doesn't make us safer at all. And the other thing I will add on that point too, Amna, is, if there truly was a national security justification, if there truly was a concern about identity management and passport controls, then why would you say it's OK for tourists to come, right?

    Like, why is suddenly that country…


  • Amna Nawaz:

    … who apply for tourism visas go through a lower vetting of standard than people who are applying for green cards.

  • Farhana Khera:

    Right. Right.

    So it seems like it's actually anti-intuitive. It doesn't make sense. And I think that belies the fact that, fundamentally, this is really about bigotry. And it's about the president's ultimate agenda is, frankly, a white nationalist agenda to restrict the entry into the United States of non-Europeans.

    He's made that very clear. And that's what these policies are about.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Let me ask about you something else they have said, which is…

  • Farhana Khera:


  • Amna Nawaz:

    … that the original ban did include one country, Chad.

    When it met their standards, it was removed. And they also say people can apply for waivers. This is not an all-out ban on all citizens. What has been the impact you have seen? And do those waivers actually get processed?

  • Farhana Khera:


    So what we have found, unfortunately, is that the waiver process is a sham. So, family members are supposed to be able to get an exception through a waiver. But, in reality, the government actually hasn't even been clear with the public about how you even apply for a waiver.

    And the reality is, is those people who are requesting waivers, they're being reviewed and approved in an extremely slow manner. There are people who've been waiting literally three years to be reunited with a fiance, to be reunited with an infant child.

    That is way too long. And now, by adding these additional countries, we're inflicting harm on literally tens of thousands of more Americans.

    And if I can just add, Amna, we believe, according to census data, in the United States today, based on now the 13 countries that are on the banned list, that involves at least a million Americans. A million Americans have their place of birth in these 13 countries. And they obviously have family members, some of whom they want to be reunited with.

    So this is inflicting harm on people. And this is not about national security at all.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Farhana Khera of the Muslim Advocates group, you are president and executive director there. Thanks very much for being with us tonight.

  • Farhana Khera:

    Thanks for having me. Thank you.

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