African Immigrants May Be Trump’s Next Target – The Atlantic

Last week, Politico reported that the Trump administration was considering adding seven new countries to its travel ban. A majority of them—Eritrea, Sudan, Tanzania, and Nigeria, which is by far the most populous of the seven—are in Africa. The rationalization appears to involve terrorism. In the “counterterrorism” section of a January 17 speech, Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, declared, “We’re establishing criteria that all foreign governments must satisfy to assist DHS in vetting foreign nationals seeking to enter our country … For a small number of countries that lack either the will or the capability to adhere to these criteria, travel restrictions may become necessary to mitigate threats.”

Because the Supreme Court upheld Donald Trump’s travel ban in 2018 on national-security grounds, it’s not surprising that administration officials would cite that same rationale to expand the ban now. But the argument is weak. According to numbers crunched by the Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh when Trump first imposed the ban three years ago, not a single person born in Eritrea, Tanzania, Nigeria, or Sudan killed a single American in a terrorist attack on American soil from 1975 to 2016. (The same is true of Belarus and Myanmar, two of the other three countries Trump may add to the travel-ban roster. Two people from Kyrgyzstan, the final country, were implicated in deadly anti-American terrorism incidents during the period, according to Nowrasteh’s tally.)

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.

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.

Since then, however, Muslims and Latinos have become less potent scapegoats. The Islamic State lost its final patch of territory last spring. There hasn’t been a jihadist attack as deadly as San Bernardino inside the United States since Trump’s election. And the number of immigrants being apprehended at America’s southern border has declined for seven straight months, mostly because Mexico has deployed its national guard to prevent Central Americans from reaching the United States. Last July, according to Gallup, 27 percent of Americans called immigration the most important issue facing the country. By December, the figure was down to10 percent.

So Trump is diversifying his array of immigrant threats. Singling out African countries could spark a public battle with the Congressional Black Caucus, Somalian-American Representative Ilhan Omar, and African American celebrities—just the sort of foes who rouse Trump’s base. Expect presidential tweets and Tucker Carlson monologues about Nigerian email scammers and crime rates in Lagos. In Trump’s ceaseless battle to terrify Republicans with the specter of an America no longer controlled by white men, a new front may be opening up.

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