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U.S. won't issue some visas in four nations in deportation crackdown

By ARSHAD MOHAMMED and YEGANEH TORBATI
Reuters

September 13. 2017 11:55PM
International passengers arrive at Washington Dulles International Airport after the U.S. Supreme Court granted parts of the Trump administration's emergency request to put its travel ban into effect later in the week pending further judicial review, in Dulles, Va., on June 26. (REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan/Files)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department on Wednesday will stop issuing certain kinds of visas to some citizens of Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea and Sierra Leone because the nations are not taking back their citizens the United States wants to deport.

The new policies, laid out in State Department cables reviewed by Reuters on Tuesday and described in a department news briefing, are the latest example of U.S. President Donald Trump's effort to crack down on immigrants who are in the United States illegally.

The cables, sent by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to consular officials around the world, said the four countries were "denying or unreasonably delaying" the return of their citizens, and that visa restrictions would be lifted in a country if it accepted its deportees.

"The Secretary determines the categories of applicants subject to the visa restrictions, and the categories differ slightly country by country," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in the news briefing on Tuesday.

The visa sanctions vary in severity, with Eritrea facing the harshest ones. Any Eritreans who apply in their own country for most U.S. business or tourist visas will be rejected, according to one of the cables.

In Guinea, the United States will no longer issue a range of tourist, business and student visas to government officials and their immediate family members who apply from inside the country, another cable said.

"We are all surprised by the American authorities' decision but the foreign minister is at this moment working so that the situation returns to normal," Guinea government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara told Reuters.

"It must be understood that Guinea has never wanted to prevent the repatriation of its nationals who are in conflict with American law."

In Cambodia, the sanction is tailored. Only Foreign Ministry employees at or above the rank of director general, and their families, who apply inside the country will be barred from getting some visas for personal travel, a third cable said. For Sierra Leone, only Foreign Ministry and immigration officials will be denied tourist and business visas at the U.S. Embassy in Freetown, according to a fourth cable. Some exceptions

In each case, there are exceptions for citizens of the four nations who apply for visas from outside their countries, as well as exceptions on humanitarian grounds or for travel "deemed in the interest of the United States."

The new rules, which go into effect on Wednesday, do not affect visas that already have been granted.

Visa sanctions are allowed by U.S. immigration law to punish countries that refuse to accept their citizens back from the United States.

In practice, the United States has rarely taken that step - just twice in the past decade and a half, according to a Department of Homeland Security spokesman.


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