President Donald Trump has taken off the gloves.
On Wednesday, the Trump administration enacted visa sanctions against four countries that have rejected its citizens that the United States is trying to deport.
It’s a little-used tool, but extremely effective. Homeland Security and State Department officials confirmed the ban, announcing that the countries affected are Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, and Sierra Leone
Triggering the sanctions fulfills a campaign promise by President Trump, who had chided the Obama administration for not doing more to force countries to take back their deportees.
Once in office, Mr. Trump had ordered his government to use a provision in law that allows him to slap sanctions on countries that thwart deportation efforts. Homeland Security triggered the law by sending letters to the State Department this week, and now State must halt issuance of visas to some or all of those countries’ citizens.
“We can confirm the Department of State has received notification from the Department of Homeland Security regarding four countries that have refused to accept or unreasonably delayed the return of its nationals,” a department official told The Washington Times.
“When we receive such notification, the Department of State works to implement a visa suspension as expeditiously as possible in the manner the secretary determines most appropriate under the circumstances to achieve the desired goal.”
Officials at the embassies of the four targeted countries couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday night.
All of them have been on the list of recalcitrant countries for years — with Eritrea having been a problem country as far back as 2004, according to an inspector general’s report.
Before now visa sanctions had only been triggered twice — once at the beginning of the Bush administration and once at the tail end of the Obama administration. The Trump government’s moves doubled that total in one swoop.
“Finally we have an administration that is doing what it should be doing,” said Rosemary Jenks, government relations manager at NumbersUSA, which had pushed both previous presidents to flex this tool. “This should be routine practice. As soon as a country refuses to take back its criminal nationals, there should be visa sanctions immediately.”
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