VALLEY FORGE, PA (2/18/20)—On January 31, 2020, President Trump signed a Presidential Proclamation that expands Travel Ban 3.0 to certain nationals from six NEW countries: Myanmar (also known as Burma), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania. There is no expiration date.
The new expanded travel ban will take effect at midnight on February 21, 2020.
“We are saddened by the consequences of the recent expanded travel ban upon our brothers and sisters among the Burma diaspora. We are putting together an advocacy delegation that will seek to raise the consciousness and call for a more humanitarian response to the current set of circumstances,” said Acting General Secretary C. Jeff Woods.
The ban will greatly impact the filing of the I-130 Petition of Alien Relative administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It will ban the Burma diaspora individuals and families who have attained U.S. citizenship, applying for their immediate family/relatives –parents, spouse and children who are under age 21 – to be immigrated into the U.S. Families in qualifying relationships under the immigration statute will be separated, more parents and loved ones will be unable to travel to the United States to witness key events like the birth of a grandchild, or marriage of child, or a married spouse in Myanmar will not be able to join his/her spouse in the U.S. In other words, the ban will disrupt “family reunification” or “chain-migration” of U.S. citizens originated from Myanmar.
However, the I-730 Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition, which refers to the refugee family reunification process, should not be impacted by this ban. “A refugee does not have to have Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status and can still use the I-730 process, as long as it’s within two years of them arriving in the U.S. “But, that process has been massively slowed down due to the more than 80% cut to refugee admissions,” said Jen Smyers from Church World Service. She further said that refugee admission number has been reduced from an historic 95,000 refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S. to 18,000 in 2020.
The Department of Homeland Security, in its January 31, 2020 news release, stated the reason for the ban is that these six counties pose a national security risk or fail to meet baseline requirements of U.S. identity management, information sharing, national security, and public safety assessment criteria. Yet, critics of the ban argue that it is discriminatory and based on impermissible factors, such as national origin and religion.
Due to a significant number of the over 120,000 Burma diaspora people who are Burmese, Chin, Kachin, Karen and others resettled into the U.S. since 2006, thousands have become U.S. citizens and have had the intent to file the I-130 to be reunited with family. The communities are in disbelief and are seeking support and help from American Baptist denominational leaders. In the wake of the January 31st announcement, conference calls have been made with Church World Service, key ethnic convention pastoral leaders, The American Baptist Churches USA Office of the General Secretary, International Ministries and American Baptist Home Mission Societies staff.
The following is a recommended plan of action:
- Compile stories and collect data of impacted individuals and families.
- Form a delegation and partner with Church World Service for advocacy visits to members of the Congress, U.S. Senators, the U.S. State Department, The Bureau of Religious Freedom and Human Rights.
- Advocate to the Myanmar Embassy in Washington DC for the diaspora communities.
- Join the Refugee Council USA and Church World Service sponsored Advocacy Days in Washington, DC on April 28 and 29.
- Ask churches, regions and ethnic Conventions/Associations to send letters to U.S. Senators, local legislators and officials.
- Join the “No Ban Act” in coming weeks.
For full information about the travel ban, please visit:
For more resources, please visit:
For free and low-cost legal help, please visit:
To learn more about sending letters to the State and U.S. Senators, members of the Congress and Representatives, please contact Florence.Li@abhms.org or Leslie.Turley@internationalministries.org.
The Burma Refugee Commission is a joint effort coordinated out of the ABCUSA Office of General Secretary. Commission members include representatives of ABHMS, IM, REMC, Burmese Baptist Churches USA, Chin Baptist Churches USA, Chin Association of North America, Kachin Baptist Churches USA, Kachin American Baptist Association, and Karen Baptist Churches USA.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.