Visa sanctions issued on four countries that nix deportees
The administration imposed visa sanctions last week on four countries that have refused to cooperate in taking back their immigrants whom the U.S. wants to deport, making good on one of President Trump’s campaign promises.
The sanctions would begin last Wednesday, halting issuance of at least some categories of visas to would-be travelers from Cambodia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Eritrea.
“The Secretary of State has ordered consular officers in Eritrea, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia to implement visa restrictions effective September 13, 2017,” the department said in a statement provided to The Washington Times. “The Secretary determined the categories of visa applicants subject to these restrictions on a country-by-country basis.”
The law allows for all visas to be halted to any country that refuses cooperation, but the department decided to impose less draconian penalties in each of the four cases.
In Cambodia, only top diplomats and their families will be denied temporary tourism or business visas. In Eritrea, the U.S. Embassy will stop issuing business and tourist visas to all citizens.
In Guinea, government officials and family members will be denied business, tourist and student and exchange program visas. In Sierra Leone, the government’s diplomats and immigration officials will be denied business and tourist visas.
Still, the sanctions mark a major increase in pressure on countries that refuse to take back their deportees. Mr. Trump complained about the situation during his presidential campaign and directed quick action in one of his first executive orders in office.
Homeland Security acting Secretary Elaine Duke triggered the sanctions last month by sending letters to the State Department saying that the four countries were recalcitrant.
The State Department then had 30 days to decide what the exact penalties should be in each case.
Sanctions have been triggered only twice before — once in 2001 against Guyana and again late last year against Gambia. In both instances, they produced quick results. Guyana moved within months to issue travel documents to take back 112 of the 113 deportees stuck in a backlog.
A man who answered the phones at Sierra Leone’s embassy in Washington said the offices were closed and urged a reporter to call back. Efforts to reach the embassies of Guinea, Eritrea and Cambodia were unsuccessful.
The four embassies didn’t respond to requests for comment last month when The Times first reported they were being targeted.
Rosemary Jenks, government relations manager at NumbersUSA, which advocates for stricter immigration controls, said it was a start.
“The law says that we have the authority to halt visas from recalcitrant countries, and we should halt visas. We should stop the issuance of visas to countries that don’t take back their criminals. Period. Full stop,” she said.