Statement by the African Studies Association (US) concerning President Donald Trump’s Extension of his Travel Ban to include Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, and Eritrea
March 5, 2020
The Board of the African Studies Association (US)—the largest organization of its kind, representing the interests of 2,000 scholars of Africa, including African scholars living and working on the African continent—demands the immediate reversal of the recent Executive Order which extends President Donald Trump’s travel ban to four African countries from entry into the United States.
The expansion, announced on January 31, 2020 and that went into effect on February 22, adds Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania and Eritrea to a travel ban first announced in March 2017. Libya and Somalia, two other African countries were included in the first version of the ban. A total of 13 countries worldwide are included in the travel ban. All these countries are majority Muslim or have significant Muslim populations.
According to NBC News, these African countries together account for over a quarter of the population of Africa. The ban, as NBC News reports, “targets those with immigrant visas, and prevents immigrants from Sudan and Tanzania from participating in the diversity visa program, which awards green cards to immigrants through a lottery system.” The diversity visa program grants green cards to about 50,000 people a year.
The new restrictions have been criticized by a range of civil rights groups, including the NAACP, Color of Change, the National Action Network and Muslim Advocates.
The ASA is particularly concerned about the attack on academic freedom resulting from the travel limitations imposed on foreign nationals from these African named countries. The ban also directly impacts students and faculty at our universities, scholarly partners from these countries and ASA members who conduct research there.
Despite the Trump administration’s rhetoric that the goal with the travel ban and immigration restrictions are to ensure that these countries satisfy security requirements for travel into the United States, the fact that all these are majority Muslim countries and that the rhetoric preceding the exclusion specifically talked about a ban of Muslims, suggest US policy targets Muslims. As the ASA noted when the original travel ban was first announced, it creates an image of bias and hostility that undermines efforts to build understanding and cooperation. The travel ban is also contemptuous of the contributions that many individuals originating from the affected countries have made to US society. It blatantly disregards constitutional protections of freedom of religion enshrined in the Bill of Rights, and makes those of us who work abroad less safe.
As an association whose central mission is dedicated to understanding the complexity of the African continent and promoting academic exchange between scholars of the African continent and the United States, we deplore the arbitrary and unwarranted application of the executive order, which has a significant impact on the people of Africa and scholars who study the continent.
The ASA has for the past 62 years fostered greater knowledge and understanding of the African continent through encouraging the study of Africa, supporting research by Africans, and promoting collaboration among Africanists within the United States and abroad. Our ethical guidelines include a commitment to defending academic freedom and drawing attention to acts and events that violate the rights of people and their communities.