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US suspends visas for four countries, but not for ‘dreamers’

The US State Department on Wednesday will stop issuing visas to four nations because they are not taking back their citizens the United States wants to deport. But "dreamers" or DACA immigrants are excluded.

Published: September 14, 2017, 10:57 am

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    Washington

    Some citizens of Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea and Sierra Leone now facing visa restrictions, the latest example of President Donald Trump’s pledge to crack down on illegal immigrants in the US as long as those immigrants are not from the Americas.

    Trump scrapped the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, called DACA, programme earlier this month, but has backtracked after meeting with Democratic lawmakers. The Obama-era DACA scheme protected migrants brought to the US illegally as children from deportation. The majority of DACA recipients or “dreamers” are from Mexico and other Latin American countries.

    Republican support is more crucial then Democratic votes in any immigration legislation, as the Republicans have a majority in both the House and the Senate.

    Trump has promised to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, but has been slow in taking action.

    House of Representatives member Steve King of Iowa tweeted: “Trump base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair. No promise is credible,” while Breitbart ran the headline, “Amnesty Don” and accused the president of “a full-fledged cave”.

    The new visa policies, reported by Reuters on Tuesday were revealed in diplomatic cables sent by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to consular officials around the world, because the four countries were “denying or unreasonably delaying” the return of their citizens.

    The new visa restrictions would only be lifted if a country accepted its deportees.

    Eritrea face the toughest visa sanctions, and any Eritrean who applies for either a US business or tourist visa will be rejected, according to the cables.

    In Guinea, government officials and their immediate family members who apply for a visa to the United States will no longer be issued with tourist, business and student visas.

    “We are all surprised by the American authorities’ decision but the foreign minister is at this moment working so that the situation returns to normal,” Guinea government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara told Reuters.

    “It must be understood that Guinea has never wanted to prevent the repatriation of its nationals who are in conflict with American law.”

    In Cambodia, only Foreign Ministry employees at or above the rank of director general, and their families, will be barred from personal travel visas. Similarly in Sierra Leone, only Foreign Ministry and immigration officials will be denied tourist and business visas.

    “American citizens have been harmed because foreign governments refuse to take back their citizens,” Thomas Homan, acting director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a Department of Homeland Security statement.

    In some cases there are exceptions on humanitarian grounds or for travel “deemed in the interest of the United States”.

    In June this year, bills on illegal immigrants were passed the US House of Representatives. By a vote of 257-167, the House passed “Kate’s law” to increase penalties for illegal immigrants who return to the United States.

    It is named for Kate Steinle, who was shot dead in San Francisco in 2015 by an illegal immigrant from Mexico, Juan Francisco López-Sánchez, who had been deported five times.

    Under the new laws, illegal immigrants would face mandatory detention for past convictions, including for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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