U.S. Invokes Visa Sanctions Against Six Nations

By Dan Cadman on February 1, 2020

The Trump administration has just announced travel restrictions against six nations (Nigeria, Burma (Myanmar), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, and Tanzania) that will have the effect of altogether ceasing issuance of immigrant visas until those countries take needed steps to upgrade passport security and information sharing protocols.

It's a serious step, which should be construed as recognition of exactly how poor those countries' existing policies and practices are with regard to the issuance of safe, readable, and counterfeit-resistant travel documents.

It's also suggestive that those same countries do little or nothing to aid the United States in the identification of their own nationals, which is critical if our federal immigration and consular officials are to engage in the kind of robust vetting of visa applicants that we have a right to expect.

That these issues have become so significant in the affected countries should not be a surprise, though. Five of the six — all but Kyrgyzstan — have been listed by federal immigration officials as also being "recalcitrant" or "at risk of being designated recalcitrant". This designation is applied to those countries which either outright refuse to accept back their nationals who are being removed from the United States for violation of our laws, or who so substantially slow-walk issuance of the necessary documents required to repatriate those nationals that they end up being released to wander the streets of America until such time as the country gets around to granting permission and issuing the needed travel documents.

It's worth noting that Sec. 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides that visa sanctions of exactly the same kind as have been invoked here might have been invoked against those nations. So, while we might lament the fact that the visa sanctions have been invoked for other, equally valid, reasons, it seems logical that while our government monitors the progress toward compliance of the named countries with passport security and information-sharing protocols, it should also be pressing hard to make sure that, in the future, those countries will also abide by their international responsibilities where return of their own citizens is concerned.

One other point: one wonders why the new executive order doesn't also include nonimmigrant visas, since if passports are not securely issued and information isn't being shared, the American people are no better protected if those individuals are granted visas and permitted entry into our country.