Cancel visas to foreign countries that won't take undocumented immigrants back

"Cancel visas to foreign countries that won’t take them back."


Trump administration places visa sanctions on 4 countries not taking back nationals ordered deported

President Donald Trump's administration announced it is placing visa restrictions on four countries that are not taking back nationals the United States seeks to deport. 

Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, and Sierra Leone "have denied or unreasonably delayed accepting" their nationals ordered removed from the United States, the Department of Homeland Security said Sept. 13 in a news release.

 "International law obligates each country to accept the return of its nationals ordered removed from the United States," said DHS Acting Secretary Elaine Duke. "Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, and Sierra Leone have failed in that responsibility."

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ordered consular offices in the four countries to implement visa restrictions on certain categories of visa applicants. The sanctions may be expanded or lifted depending on the countries' cooperation. 

A 2001 U.S. Supreme Court case, Zadvydas vs. Davis, decided that immigrants with final orders of removal cannot be detained for an indefinite period of time if it's unlikely that they will actually be deported. The United States has not been able to deport nationals from Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, and Sierra Leone due to lack of travel documents and has been forced to release them into U.S. communities, including some with criminal convictions, DHS said.

Per DHS, these are the restrictions placed on each of the four countries, effective Sept. 13: 

Cambodia: discontinued issuance of B visas (temporary visitors for business or pleasure) for Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs employees, with the rank of Director General and above, and their families;

Eritrea: discontinued issuance of all B visas (temporary visitors for business or pleasure);

Guinea: discontinued issuance of B visas (temporary visitors for business or pleasure), and F, J, and M visas (temporary visitors for student and exchange programs) to Guinean government officials and their immediate family members;

Sierra Leone: discontinued issuance of B visas (temporary visitors for business or pleasure) to Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and immigration officials.

ICE found that as of May 2, 2016, there were 23 countries considered recalcitrant, or who are uncooperative in taking back their nationals. That number has dropped significantly.

As of September 2017, the United States considered 11 countries, as well as Hong Kong, to be recalcitrant, said Tyler Q. Houlton, DHS deputy press secretary.

The 11 countries are: China, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, Iran, Guinea, Cambodia, Eritrea, Burma, Morocco and South Sudan.

Asked why Sierra Leone was not on the recalcitrant list if it wasn't taking back nationals, Houlton told us the U.S. government regularly works with other countries to improve cooperation and that as a result the list of recalcitrant countries is "fluid."

"ICE's list of recalcitrant countries is one tool to measure compliance — sanctions in response to any country delaying or refusing to accept the return of their nationals can be implemented at any time," Houlton said.

Trump promised to cancel visas to foreign countries that won't take back their nationals. The latest sanctions from his administration are in line with his pledge. We'll continue to monitor the administration's enforcement of sanctions against uncooperative nations. For now, we rate this promise In the Works.


U.S. Department of Homeland Security, DHS Announces Implementation of Visa Sanctions on Four Countries, Sept. 13, 2017

Email exchange, Tyler Q. Houlton, DHS deputy press secretary, Sept. 15, 2017

Oyez.og, Zadvydas v. Davis

U.S. House of Representatives, Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Statement of Daniel H. Ragsdale, deputy director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, Regarding a Hearing on "Recalcitrant Countries", July 14, 2016

PolitiFact is tracking the promises of President Donald Trump. See them all at

Executive order urges cracking down on uncooperative countries

Donald Trump signed an executive order Jan. 25 directing the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to enforce already existing sanctions against countries refusing to allow people deported from America to return to their native homes.

The order specifically directs the two departments to withhold visas from countries that refuse to take their immigrants back.

This is laid out in Sec. 12 of the order. It reads:

Recalcitrant Countries. The Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State shall cooperate to effectively implement the sanctions provided by section 243(d) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1253(d)), as appropriate. The Secretary of State shall, to the maximum extent permitted by law, ensure that diplomatic efforts and negotiations with foreign states include as a condition precedent the acceptance by those foreign states of their nationals who are subject to removal from the United States.

The secretary of state is already required by law to stop giving visas to immigrants or nonimmigrants after being notified the country is hindering the accepting of one of its citizens, according to Section 243(d) of INA (8 U.S.C. 1253(d)).

Yet according to  the New York Times, that's only happened once — in 2001 against the nation of Guyana.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote a letter in June to Jeh Johnson, then-secretary of Homeland Security, encouraging the department to start enforcing the already existing sanctions.

"As the person in charge of protecting the homeland and overseeing our country's visa policies, I strongly urge you to consider using section 243(d) against the recalcitrant countries to compel them to start cooperating with ICE," reads a line of the letter.

In his letter, Grassley also mentioned a document from ICE, which outlines a speech from deputy director Daniel Ragsdale. According to the document, as of May 2, 2016, ICE documented 23 countries that are considered "recalcitrant" in taking back their citizens. The list includes Afghanistan, Algeria, China, Cuba, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

In the past, administrations have not enforced the sanctions included Section 243(d) so, the real test of Trump's order will depend on if an existing law is enforced more over the next four years. For now, we rate this promise In the Works.


PolitiFact, "Mostly True: Donald Trump says 23 countries refuse to take back their natives from America," September 1, 2016.

Letter, Immigration, 06-27-16, Recalcitrant countries letter to DHS Johnson.pdf, June 27, 2016

New York Times, Nations Hinder U.S. Effort to Deport Immigrants Convicted of Crime, July 1, 2016

Cornell Law School, "8 U.S. Code § 1253 - Penalties related to removal," accessed Jan. 30, 2017, "Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States," Jan. 25, 2017

Email with Steven Cheung, White House spokesperson, Jan. 25, 2017