What Happens When the State Department Sanctions Nations for Not Taking Our Deportees?

A mixed bag

By David North on January 13, 2022

Some recalcitrant nations are deliberately slow to accept our deportees and other forced returns of migrants from those nations, as my colleague Dan Cadman reported a couple of years ago. They do so because they do not want these citizens of their countries to bring their behaviors back to the homeland. Most democracies, including the U.S., readily accept similar rejects from other lands.

Eleven nations have received sanctions for that behavior. What happens to the outward flow from the U.S. of removed migrants from those places? It’s a mixed bag.

In four (in bold below) of the 11 cases, we have what look like success stories; in three of those four, the number of removals has more than doubled since sanctions were imposed, and in a fourth, the ratio was almost 2:1.

In three others it is too soon to tell and in the other four there was little change or, in the case of Burma, a move in the wrong direction.

Our statistics, all drawn from previously under-utilized government files on the subject, are shown below.

Impact of U.S. Sanctions Regarding Other
Nations’ Removal Policies, 2011-2019

Nation Year of
That Year
Burma 2018 42 29 -13
Cambodia 2017 31 81 50
Cuba 2019 136 136 0
Eritrea 2017 42 49 7
The Gambia* 2016 1 or 2 125 +123 or +124
Ghana 2019 287 287 0
Guinea* 2017 90 101 11
Guyana* 2011 189 350 161
Laos 2018 - 6 6
Pakistan 2019 247 247 0
Sierra Leone 2017 41 87 46
Totals   1,106 or 1,107 1,498 +392 or +393

Sources: Columns one and two, “Repatriation of Noncitizens
Subject to Final Orders of Removal”
, Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE), 2021; columns three and four: Table 41 in the
2019 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics; column five was calculated
by CIS from columns three and four.

Only nations sanctioned under section 243 (d) are listed.

* Sanctions since lifted.

Nations in bold are success stories.

The table would seem to have a major gap: China, India, and Vietnam also have been reluctant to accept the return of their citizens, and none of these nations has been sanctioned.

The sanctions, even where they are applied, are a mild remedy. They consist of denials by the U.S. of some categories of visas to the U.S. In one instance that I recall, but cannot document, the U.S. said to one country, the families of two or three specific cabinet members were barred from getting tourist visas to the U.S. That isn’t even a slap on the wrist.

The U.S., under several presidents, has been unwilling to use reductions in USAID projects, for example, as sanctions. That would not help in the case of China, but it could be very valuable in other settings.

I sense a touch of elitism regarding how the State Department handles these matters. No one in the DoS chain of command is likely to be threatened by, for example, Vietnamese criminals in the States. Diplomats, Ivy League grads, and people living in gated communities are rarely assaulted by aliens who should have been deported. The victims are likely to be other Vietnamese, in this case, and low-income people, generally. The diplomats have other fish to fry and do not worry (as they should) about crime in American communities.