The Trump administration announced Wednesday it has ordered the State Department to limit certain visas for Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, and Sierra Leone because those countries have refused to accept the return of its nationals who are deported from the United States.
"International law obligates each country to accept the return of its nationals ordered removed from the United States," Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke said in a statement. "Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, and Sierra Leone have failed in that responsibility. The United States itself routinely cooperates with foreign governments in documenting and accepting its citizens when asked, as do the majority of countries in the world. However, these countries have failed to do so, and that one-way street ends with these sanctions."
"American citizens have been harmed because foreign governments refuse to take back their citizens. These sanctions will ensure that the problem these countries pose will get no worse as ICE continues its work to remove dangerous criminals from the United States," said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Thomas Homan.
State Secretary Rex Tillerson has told U.S. consular officers in the four countries to impose visa restrictions on certain categories of applicants. These restrictions will be determined on a country-by-country basis.
"The U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, has discontinued the issuance of B visas (temporary visitors for business or pleasure) for Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs employees, with the rank of Director General and above, and their families. The U.S. Embassy in Asmara, Eritrea, has discontinued the issuance of all B visas (temporary visitors for business or pleasure)," the State Department announced.
"The United States Embassy in Conakry, Guinea, has discontinued the issuance of B visas (temporary visitors for business or pleasure), and F, J, and M visas (temporary visitors for student and exchange programs) to Guinean government officials and their immediate family members," the memo stated. "The United States Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone, has discontinued the issuance of B visas (temporary visitors for business or pleasure) to Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and immigration officials."
If the countries continue not to cooperate with the U.S., the State Department will expand the visa sanctions to additional visa groups in that country. Tillerson will wait to lift sanctions until Duke confirms each one is cooperating.
In mid-August, DHS said it had submitted a letter to the State Department asking for visas to some citizens in those same four nations be suspended.
While a presidential candidate, Trump promised to take more action to get countries to take back people the U.S. sought to deport. Eight of the 20 countries that had fought the change are now working with the U.S. government to take back their citizens.
ICE has had to release 2,137 Guinean and 831 Sierra Leone nationals, "many with serious criminal convictions," because their home countries refused to accept them back, according to the DHS release.
Similarly, the Eritrean and Cambodian governments refused to issue travel documents for its citizens to be transported back. ICE was forced to free 700 illegal immigrants from Eritrea and 1,900 Cambodian nationals.