The Nigerian community says it is prepared to legally defend any Nigerian traveller coming to the US if targeted by immigration officials hiding under President Donald Trump’s new travel ban on Friday.
Already, the Nigerian Lawyers Association and the Organisation for the Advancement of Nigeria (OAN), two influential Nigerian community associations in the U.S., have embarked on sensitisation of Nigerians who have relatives travelling to the U.S.
On Monday, the groups organised two sessions of teleconferences, in which the Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) participated, with many Nigerians calling in to seek further clarifications on the travel ban.
Mr Francis James, a Member, Board of Directors of OAN, told NAN that U.S. law enforcement officials had become overzealous with extreme vetting since the roll out of the order by Trump and were sometimes going beyond their Constitutional bound.
“We are prepared to protect the rights of all Nigerian travellers to the United States to ensure that they are not detained or denied entry at the airports.
“We know the U.S. President has constitutional rights (to issue executive order) and that’s what is driving the overzealous security officers but we are saying that U.S. Constitution also forbids discrimination on the basis of race, religion or colour.
“The President’s immigration order has now given muscles to security officials at airports and borders and they are asking unnecessary questions about you, where you have travelled to or your security codes.
“They are going beyond the executive order. So to reach out to our community, what we’re doing is to go to the airports to provide services to Nigerians who may be affected,” he said.
While the ban did not target Nigeria, James said they had received few reports of Nigerians who were denied entry at the airports after what he termed “inappropriate questioning” and advised Nigerians that they had the rights to protest against unnecessary questioning.
“This particular order does not target the country but there could be unintended consequences over where they have travelled to within the country.
“And so they (Nigerians) may be asked some inappropriate questions like visits to some parts of Nigeria. Somebody said a cousin was asked some questions and afterwards refused entry into the United States.
“What we are doing is sharing information that Nigerians should have handy; that the security officers don’t have the right to ask you unnecessary questions.”
He said there were Nigerian attorneys volunteering to be at the airports as part of the Legal Aid Society including organisations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who can easily come to the aid of any Nigerian stranded at the airports.
“Basically, what you need to do is to keep them informed that a relative is coming to the United States and to know when he or she has arrived or will arrive.
“The law prescribes that you cannot be delayed more than six hours. So if after six hours of arrival you have not seen your relative, then the immigration attorneys will file for relief and they will have to release him or her.
“So it is to be aware and inform your relatives, and also the immigration lawyers that your relative is being detained or asked questions that were inappropriate and they will come to their aid.”
The Nigerian community leader advised Nigerians or their relatives who have difficulties at the airports to contact the Legal Aid Society on: 844-955-9428 for immediate assistance.
NAN reports that one of OAN’s major accomplishments occurred in 1990, when it successfully stopped major U.S. banks from denying Nigerians, banking services because of their blanket stereotyping of Nigerian customers as potential fraudsters.
The two sessions of the teleconferences, which would continue on Saturday, had about 600 Nigerians who called in to seek clarifications and advice on the travel ban, the organisers said.
James said the travel ban ‘has raised many questions and has sparked protests around the country and other countries around the world regarding travellers who were previously approved to come to the United States but later detained at airports.
“This ban may also affect travellers from other countries, including Africans. Visitors, students and Green Card holders are being aggressively vetted at airports, while Immigration Officers are pursuing aggressive enforcement and arrests across the country.
“Please call in to this important information session to learn your rights on how your travelling relatives and friends can ensure they are not unlawfully denied entry into the United States,” he advised.
The Nigerian community leader also advised the public to help in getting the information out as quickly as possible to save Nigerians from travelling to the U.S. from detention or deportation at the airports.
“Since time is of the essence, please start sharing with all your contacts and channels aggressively. Your effort may save you or someone from serious legal issues,” James appealed.
The U.S. Government plans to consider almost all illegal immigrants subject to deportation, but will leave protections in place for immigrants known as “dreamers” who entered the country illegally as children, according to official guidelines released on Tuesday.
The revised order, which Trump said would be out this week, is reported to target only those same seven countries, namely, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan and Libya.
The Department of Homeland Security guidance to immigration agents is part of a broader plan for border security and immigration enforcement of the executive orders that Trump signed on Jan. 25, but which was blocked by Federal Courts.