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World Relief Laments Expanded Restrictions on Lawful Immigration

January 31, 2020

Lauren Carl

World Relief Laments Expanded Restrictions on Lawful Immigration
New “Travel Ban” Will Bar Family Reunification from Particular African and Asian Countries

BALTIMORE, Md. – Late today, President Trump issued a new executive order expanding upon previous travel bans. The new order bars most individuals from Burma, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan and Nigeria from obtaining immigrant visas to migrate lawfully to the U.S. and restricts individuals from Sudan and Tanzania from eligibility for one category of immigrant visa. 

“These further restrictions on legal immigration processes will mean families seeking reunification will be stymied,” explained Scott Arbeiter, World Relief President. “This overly broad policy unfairly targets individuals of particular nationalities in Africa and Asia, and sadly it’s consistent with various other policies that have the effect of significantly restricting legal immigration to the United States.”

Working both through a network of local offices as well as by providing technical support to scores of local churches with accredited immigration legal clinics, World Relief has helped thousands of individuals in the process of family reunification since the 1980s, including many from the countries that will be affected by this new executive order.

“These families have done everything we’ve asked of them as a nation, working through a complex legal process that in many cases has required them to wait years or decades to immigrate lawfully to the U.S. Now, those from these particular countries of origin will be barred,” notes World Relief Director of National Immigration Programs Courtney Tudi. “As Christians who believe that God instituted the family unit, we believe these policies are harmful.”

The executive order does not apply to the U.S. refugee resettlement program. However, it does seem to restrict individuals who initially arrived as refugees, who may now be Lawful Permanent Residents or naturalized U.S. citizens, who have filed I-130 petitions to be reunited with family members still in their countries of origin. This will particular impact many from Burma, also known as Myanmar, which is the top country of origin for refugees resettled to the U.S. in the past decade. More than 150,000 Burmese refugees have been admitted to the U.S. in the past twelve years, most of whom have been persecuted Christians. Many are now proud U.S. citizens – but this new executive order will bar their immediate family members still in Burma from being reunited to them through family sponsorship.

The U.S. is also home to a large Nigerian-American community including more than 200,000 Nigerian immigrants, most of whom are naturalized U.S. citizens. However, many still have family members residing in Nigeria who will now be barred from immigrant visas. Nigeria is home to a large population of both Muslims (roughly 90 million) and Christians (roughly 86 million), all of whom will be barred from immigration to the U.S. by this policy. “As a pastor of a church where many of my congregants are from Nigeria and other parts of Africa, this policy is devastating,” says Pastor Gregory Ijiwola of City Lights Church in Chicago.

World Relief urges the administration to immediately revoke this new policy, resuming family reunification and other immigrant visas for qualifying individuals. With support from local churches and other community partners, we will continue to provide the best available legal counsel to individuals seeking to be reunited with their loved ones in these affected countries. For more information, visit

Download the PDF version of this press release.


About World Relief:

World Relief is a global Christian humanitarian organization that seeks to overcome violence, poverty and injustice. Through love in action, we bring hope, healing and restoration to millions of the world’s most vulnerable women, men and children through vital and sustainable programs in disaster response, health and child development, economic development and peacebuilding, as well as refugee and immigration services in the U.S. For 75 years, we’ve partnered with churches and communities, currently across more than 20 countries, to provide relief from suffering and help people rebuild their lives.

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