The Trump Administration today announced visa sanctions against Burma and Laos, alleging that the two countries were not cooperating with it in accepting their citizens who have been deported from the United States. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M Nielsen, as per the provisions of Immigration and Nationality Act, notified Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the governments of Burma and Laos have denied or unreasonably delayed accepting their nationals ordered removed from the US.
As a result, Pompeo has ordered consular officers in Burma and Laos to implement visa restrictions on certain categories of visa applicants. “Without an appropriate response from Burma and Laos, the scope of these sanctions may be expanded to a wider population,” an official statement said, adding that the suspension will remain in place until Nielsen notifies Pompeo that cooperation on removals has improved to an acceptable level. The government alleged that Burma and Laos have not established repeatable processes for issuing travel documents to their nationals ordered removed from the US for this reason, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been required to release Burmese and Laos nationals into America, some with serious criminal convictions.
As of July 9, the US Embassy in Rangoon, has discontinued the issuance of all B1 and B2 nonimmigrant visas for current officials at the Director General level and above from the Burmese Ministries of Labour, Immigration, and Population (MOLIP) and Home Affairs (MOHA), and their immediate family members, with limited exceptions. Similarly, as of July 9, the US Embassy in Vientiane, Laos, has discontinued the issuance of all B1, B2, and B1/B2 nonimmigrant visas for current officials at the Director General-level and above from the Laos Ministry of Public Security (MPS) as well as their immediate families; and all A3 and G5 nonimmigrant visas to individuals employed by Laos government officials, with limited exceptions. “The decision to sanction a recalcitrant country is not taken lightly,” the statement said.
As a general matter, recalcitrant countries who refuse to issue travel documents render meaningless the United States’ entire removal process as enacted by Congress in the INA, and such countries also fail to meet their international treaty obligations to take back their nationals who have been ordered removed, it said. Further, based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Zadvydas vs Davis, with narrow exceptions, aliens with final orders of removal, including aliens determined to pose a threat to the community or considered a flight risk, may not be detained beyond a presumptively reasonable period of six months if there is no “significant likelihood of removal in the reasonably foreseeable future”.
“When recalcitrant countries like Burma and Laos delay or refuse to issue travel documents to their nationals or refuse to accept their nationals within this time period, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may be required to release dangerous criminals into communities across the United States,” it said. The Department of Homeland Security rued that without a travel document issued by an alien’s home country to confirm identity and nationality, ICE cannot complete the removal process of most aliens, with very limited exceptions.