The rumours began circulating last week. By Friday afternoon, Houston immigration lawyer Ral Obioha said her phone was ringing off the hook, with several of her clients asking a seemingly simple, straightforward question: “How does this affect me?”
But the answer is not clear, Obioha said, as confusion and uncertainty spread in the hours after Donald Trump issued an expanded travel ban for nationals from six countries seeking to enter the United States.
As of February 21, citizens of Eritrea, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan and Nigeria will no longer be eligible for immigrant visas to the US, the White House announced on Friday afternoon. Citizens from Sudan and Tanzania will also not be eligible to enter a lottery programme to apply for immigrant visas.
The Trump administration’s decision has been widely decried by advocacy and rights groups as an extension of an earlier so-called “Muslim ban”, under which citizens of several Muslim-majority countries were barred from entering the country.
“It really hits us hard right now,” said Obioha, who was born in the US to parents from Nigeria.
Houston, Texas, is home to one of the largest Nigerian diasporas in the country, Obioha explained, and Friday’s announcement threw the community into chaos.
“They’re asking … ‘Does this mean that my husband can never come? Does this mean that my children can never join me? Does this mean I’ll have to give up my job to go back to Nigeria just so that I can be with my family?'” she said, about the questions her clients have asked.