A Wall Street Journal article on the potential travel-ban expansion suggests a different justification: Travelers from Eritrea, Sudan, and Nigeria are more likely than travelers from other countries to overstay their visas. But if that’s the case—as Tom Jawetz, an immigration expert at the Center for American Progress, explained to me—the answer is to train the U.S. consular officers who give out those visas to better determine who won’t return home, or to actually increase visas to meet legitimate demand. The answer is not to collectively punish the population of an entire country.
David Frum: America’s asylum system is profoundly broken
But if the Trump administration’s real motivation is to decrease immigration from Africa, then collective punishment has a certain logic to it. For several years now, Trump has trained his nativist ire on Muslims and Latinos. The travel ban suggests he’s adding a new target, just in time for the 2020 elections: Africans.
According to the Pew Research Center, the number of black immigrants in the United States has grown fivefold over the past 40 years. America’s immigrant population from sub-Saharan Africa more than doubled from 2000 to 2016 alone. Trump’s allies have noticed. In her book Adios America, which Trump publicly praised, and parroted, when he launched his 2016 campaign, Ann Coulter claims, “There were almost no Nigerians in the United States until the 1970s. Today there are 380,000.” This is a problem, she declares, because “in Nigeria, every level of society is criminal.” When 500 Congolese and Angolan immigrants showed up at the Texas border last June, Tucker Carlson warned that, because of “population growth … on the continent of Africa,” African immigration “could become a torrent” that could “overwhelm our country, and change it completely and forever.”
Trump himself, according to The New York Times, vented in a 2017 Oval Office meeting that on his watch the United States had admitted 40,000 Nigerians who would never “go back to their huts.” (Nigerian immigrants are actually twice as likely to have at least a bachelor’s degree as Americans as a whole.) During an immigration meeting in 2018, The Washington Post reported, Trump referred to Haiti, El Salvador, and nations in Africa as “shithole countries.” Soon afterward, the White House unveiled a proposal to remake America’s immigration system. According to the Center for American Progress, it would have reduced immigration from sub-Saharan Africa by 46 percent, more than any other region of the world.
Ibram X. Kendi: The day ‘shithole’ entered the presidential lexicon
But while Trump’s animosity to African immigration isn’t new, it has never before taken center stage in his administration’s policies or his public rhetoric. Trump launched his 2016 presidential campaign talking about Mexican rapists. He made building a wall on America’s southern border his campaign’s rallying cry. He responded to the December 2015 jihadist attack in San Bernardino, California, by demanding a ban on Muslim immigration. He made Central American immigrant “caravans” the heart of his get-out-the-vote strategy in 2018.