In its latest crackdown on immigration, the Trump administration is considering placing travel restrictions on countries whose citizens have a high rate of overstaying their visas in the U.S., a move that could affect some African countries.
U.S. President Donald Trump has, since assuming power, focused strongly on the flow of migrants at the southwest border, but has not paid much attention to the scores of migrants who overstay a visa each year.
A 2006 report by the Pew Research Center estimated that up to 45 per cent of the undocumented population entered the country on a valid visa, but did not depart. According to the organization’s latest analysis, about 11 million undocumented immigrants reside in the U.S.
Trump’s newly proposed travel restrictions would, therefore, not specifically target countries due to the race of their inhabitants or their domestic conditions. The restrictions would be based on the percentage of visitors who overstay their tourist or business visas, reports The Wall Street Journal.
It is significant to note that many of the countries whose citizens have the highest rates of overstaying their visas are African nations like Chad, Djibouti, Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Liberia, Somalia, and South Sudan.
In some of these African countries, armed conflicts and brutal regimes are rife, thus, many of its citizens seek asylum in the U.S. Statistics from the United States Department of Homeland Security, however, show that the total number of people these African countries send to the U.S. each year is, in fact, very small.
In 2017, for instance, 16 per cent of visitors from Somalia overstayed their visas, but that 16 per cent represents only 24 total people. For the United Kingdom that has a low overstay rate, only 0.54 per cent of visitors overstayed their visas that same year, however, that percentage represents over 25,690 people.
Analysts are, therefore, wondering why the Trump administration should target these African countries for visa restrictions when their citizens are only a small portion of visa overstays.
In an interview with Pacific Standard magazine, Patrice Lawrence, a director at the UndocuBlack Network, an activist organization that advocates for undocumented black people in the U.S., said she believes that Trump could be looking for ways to target immigrants because of their identities.
“I think it’s a deliberate attempt to continue to paint that picture because that’s what makes people upset.
“It feels [to them] like brown and black people coming in to take over,” Lawrence said.
Others believe that this latest immigration crackdown is just to target the countries he allegedly called “shithole” recently. During a meeting in January 2018, Trump reportedly referred to Haiti and some African nations as “shithole countries“ and asked why their nationals should be admitted to the U.S.
Critics have also compared the newly proposed travel restrictions to Trump’s recent travel ban from several Muslim-majority countries due to his concerns over terrorism. According to many, Trump could use this potential visa sanctions to target black people just as he would have targeted Muslims in the proposed travel ban.
“The reasons keep changing about why it is that they want to keep people out. And that’s because there is no honest reason, except racism and xenophobia. They don’t want people in this country who have any adjacency to black or brown people,” Lawrence said.
Meanwhile, the Homeland Security Department counted 701,900 overstays of non-immigrant visas in the fiscal year 2017, representing 1.3 per cent of all short-term visitors to the U.S. in that year.
When news of the prospective travel restrictions was first reported Sunday, the White House spokesman, Hogan Gidley, said that reducing overstays remains a priority for the administration.
He told The Wall Street Journal that the White House could issue a related presidential proclamation as soon as this week.
In 2004, Congress called for the development of a biometric system to track arrivals and departures from the U.S., but successive administrations have not been able to implement this, reports Politico.