Sept. 13 (UPI) -- The Department of Homeland Security and State Department announced Wednesday that they would impose visa sanctions on four countries for not taking back citizens who have been ordered to be deported from the United States.
The sanctions will be imposed on Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Only certain categories of visa applicants will be restricted under the sanctions and a final determination will be made on a country-by-country basis. But unless the countries in question deliver an "appropriate response," the DHS said wider visa restrictions could be imposed on the general population.
"International law obligates each country to accept the return of its nationals ordered removed from the United States," said Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke. "Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, and Sierra Leone have failed in that responsibility. The United States itself routinely cooperates with foreign governments in documenting and accepting its citizens when asked, as do the majority of countries in the world. However, these countries have failed to do so, and that one way street ends with these sanctions."
The number of deportees from the four countries in 2016 totaled 121, most of which came from Cambodia, which accounted for 74, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That's a fraction of the overall number of 2016 deportees, which amounted to more than 240,000 people last year.
But DHS said there are many nationals of the four countries who have not been able to de deported due to the lack of cooperation on behalf of their governments.
"ICE has been forced to release into the United States approximately 2,137 Guinean and 831 Sierra Leone nationals, many with serious criminal convictions," DHS said, adding that there are 700 Eritrean nationals and 1,900 Cambodian nationals with removal orders who have not yet been deported.