HOUSTON - This Friday a ban on immigration from six countries is expected to go into place.
Nigeria is on that list.
According to Census numbers, Houston has the second largest Nigerian population in the nation.
Some local experts and groups say that population is larger than data suggests, and Houston has more Nigerians than any other city in the U.S.
In either case, the ethnic group has a strong presence in the city that may be affected by the latest travel ban.
￼“When I heard the news about the ban on immigration from Nigeria, I felt really devastated and right now I feel like I’m in limbo,” says Chidi, who has lived in Houston for eight years, sometimes traveling to Nigeria to visit his wife and four boys while hoping they get green cards.
We are withholding his last name because of their application status.
“I think that as a U.S. citizen it should be part of my right to get my family to join me,” he says. “But now I don’t know what to do.”
President Trump added Nigeria and five other countries to a travel immigration ban that started in 2017.
The update is already raising flags in southwest Houston where many Nigerians have made their mark on the city.
“Vibrant,” says Don Okolo, describing the community, “One of the most lively communities in the Houston area!”
Okolo moved from Nigeria to Houston 42 years ago and is now an author, movie director and Texas Southern University Professor. He says the ban only stops the progress of the nation.
Census numbers count Nigerians as the most-educated ethnic group in the U.S.
"No family comes here to loaf, to be dependent on society for sustenance. It is mostly professional families. You have medical doctors, lawyers and all kinds of other professions- and all doing well,” he adds.
The ban comes after years of increases in visa denials and travel fees.
The Department of Homeland Security says Nigeria is on the updated list because it doesn't meet security requirements.
“If they made this decision based on the Boko Haram that is an aspect of Nigeria in society that contributes to a lot of this chaos, well they can deal with it in a separate way,” says Okolo.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of ending the expanded travel ban. The bill goes to the Senate for a vote, but experts say it's not likely to pass.
In the meantime, split families hold out hope for policy changes while waiting to reunite with loved ones.
“I felt like now I’m getting closer to the finish line, then the finish line looked liked it disappeared like a mirage,” says Chidi.