Protesters gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 to denounce its ruling to uphold President Donald Trump's travel ban. File photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE
Feb. 21 (UPI) -- An expanded travel ban covering six new countries came into effect Friday under an executive order issued last month by President Donald Trump, who said the move is necessary to maintain U.S. security.
Under the order, people from Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Nigeria are banned from receiving immigrant visas, while those from Sudan and Tanzania are excluded from a lottery program through which a small number of visas are available each year for citizens of countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States.
The proclamation was an expansion of an executive order Trump issued in 2017 limiting travel by people from six countries deemed security risks. That measure placed a ban on tourist or business visas for people from Libya and Yemen as well as a ban on Somalis traveling under immigrant visas.
The first version of the ban was criticized for targeting Muslim-majority countries and sparked a lengthy legal challenge. A modified version of the ban was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018.
Critics contend the original ban as well as its extension are racist and xenophobic, ultimately hurting those from poor countries who would otherwise meet immigration criteria.
Administration officials say the countries added to the travel ban are failing to meet minimum "identity-management and information-sharing" criteria to prevent the movement of terrorists or are part of a "recalcitrant country" list -- nations that refuse to take back their nationals when the U.S. wants to deport them.
Nigeria on Thursday appealed to Washington to remove it from the ban, citing the "long-standing relationship between the two countries."
Nigerian Interior Minister Rauf Aregbesola met with U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Mary Leonard in Abuja, promising closer cooperation with the United States to help address its concerns about Nigeria's control over the issuance of visas, passports and other travel documents.
The House Judiciary Committee voted this month to advance the "No BAN Act," which would repeal the administration's travel ban and would limit the president from imposing future restrictions based on religion.
The measure advanced to the full House, but if passed there is expected to stall in the Republican-led Senate.