Showing backbone where the Bush and Obama White Houses had been spineless, the Trump administration will impose visa sanctions on four tiny countries – Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea and Sierra Leone – that have steadfastly refused to take back their convicted criminal nationals.

The four, whose diplomats and ranking officials will be denied visas, are part of a longer list of about 23 uncooperative nations that include Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, Laos, Morocco, South Sudan and Vietnam, along with Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. In past years, only two nations received sanctions: Guyana, in 2001, and The Gambia, in 2016.

Essentially, countries that refuse to repatriate their nationals thumb their noses at the U.S. Hard to imagine though it may be, Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, Sierra Leone and the others have been telling the White House, and the Departments of Homeland Security and State, to buzz off for more than a decade.

In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled in Zadvydas v. Davis that the U.S. could not indefinitely detain immigrants that no other country would accept. In his dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia logically contended that aliens without legal permission to be present in the U.S. cannot reasonably be released into the country that has put them into deportation proceedings.

Fully aware of the SCOTUS decision, countries that have strained relationships with the U.S. realized that they could bar their undesirable nationals from re-entry. The SCOTUS ruling left the U.S. holding the bag. The dire consequences of Zadvydas v. Davis began immediately. According to the U.S. Inspector General, from 2001 to 2004, about 134,000 deportable aliens were released. And Immigration and Customs Enforcement data shows that each year since 2008, about 4,000 dangerous convicted foreign nationals are freed, many of whom become repeat offenders.

Californians have, on more than one occasion, suffered the fallout from Zadvydas v. Davis. After avoiding deportation in 2006, a Vietnamese alien shot and killed five San Francisco residents. And in Fresno in 2016, a Laotian who had served 16 years for kidnapping and gang raping minor girls shot two unarmed security guards. The prior year, the feds ordered 3,735 Laotian criminal aliens deported. But they remained, and the State Department continued issuing visas.

The Immigration and Nationality Act authorizes the State Department to stop granting travel visas to recalcitrant countries when the Homeland Security Secretary requests action. But the last Homeland Security and State Department secretaries were Jeh Johnson and Hillary Clinton – fat chance they would implement measures that that would enforce immigration law.

President Trump can point to the DHS sanctions against the uncooperative four nations as a campaign promise that he delivered on. On the trail, he criticized his opponent, the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for refusing to use the INA provisions to punish recalcitrant countries.

Although President Trump is moving in the right direction, restricting diplomatic travel is a wrist slap. Cutting off tourist, business and student visas would bring domestic pressure from inside the rogue countries and, as a result, yield faster results.

Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.


Joe Guzzardi has written about immigration and the related social issues for more than 30 years. A native Californian, Joe taught English as a Second Language in the San Joaquin Valley for two decades. He is the National Media Director for CAPS. Follow him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

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