President Donald Trump is threatening to withhold visas from countries that refuse to accept deported citizens from the United States out of concern stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump issued a memo late Friday, ordering acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to notify the State Department of any government that refuses to accept deportees from the U.S.
Upon notification, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would have seven days to impose visa sanctions, making it harder — and likely impossible — for citizens of those countries to obtain U.S. visas.
The memo dramatically ratcheted up pressure on governments, particularly in Central America, to keep allowing deportation flights into their countries.
“Considering the profound and unique public health risks posed by the novel (new) coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, the need for that cooperation and timely and effective implementation is greater than ever before,” the memo reads.
“Countries that deny or unreasonably delay the acceptance of their citizens, subjects, nationals, or residents from the United States during the ongoing pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 create unacceptable public health risks for Americans,” the memo continued. “The United States must be able to effectuate the repatriation of foreign nationals who violate the laws of the United States.”
The memorandum will remain active until the end of the year.
The threat comes as countries that are home to many illegal aliens in the U.S. are hesitant to accept deportation flights, concerned that they could be importing the coronavirus.
Guatemala, for example, originally implemented a ban on all arrivals from the U.S. in March, and asked the Trump administration halt Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) repatriation flights. The tiny Central American government, under pressure from Washington, D.C., later walked back this plan.
ICE, for its part, has proven that its repatriation flights are an integral part of the State Department’s efforts to rescue Americans stranded abroad because of the coronavirus lockdown. The agency, which is taking aboard U.S. citizens on its return leg back, has rescued more than 1,000 Americans since the crisis began.
While the agency said it would focus on illegal aliens who pose more of a public safety threat, ICE is still enforcing immigration law amid the COVID-19 pandemic — which includes deporting criminal illegal aliens.
“We can walk and chew gum at the Department of Homeland Security,” DHS acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said Friday night on Fox News. “And we’re going to keep enforcing all the laws on the books, and that includes deporting people who are here illegally.” (RELATED: Border Apprehensions Drop, Thousands Of Migrants Turned Back Amid Coronavirus Crisis)
Cuccinelli cautioned that some critics are trying to use the current crisis to implement their “radical agenda” of erasing immigration law.
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