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US won’t issue some visas in four nations in deportation crackdown

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The U.S. State Department on Wednesday will stop issuing certain kinds of visas to some citizens of Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea and Sierra Leone because the nations are not taking back their citizens the United States wants to deport.

The new policies, laid out in State Department cables sent on Tuesday and reviewed by Reuters, are the latest example of U.S. President Donald Trump’s effort to crack down on immigrants who are in the United States illegally.

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The cables, sent by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to consular officials around the world, said the four countries were “denying or unreasonably delaying” the return of their citizens from the United States, and that visa restrictions would be lifted in a country if it accepted its deportees.

The State Department declined comment on the cables, saying it would not discuss internal communications.

The visa sanctions vary in severity, with Eritrea facing the harshest sanctions. Any Eritreans who apply in their own country for most U.S. business or tourist visas to the United States will be rejected, according to one of the cables.

In Guinea, the United States will no longer issue a range of tourist, business and student visas to government officials and their immediate family members who apply from inside the country, another cable said.

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In Cambodia, the sanction is tailored. Only Foreign Ministry employees at or above the rank of director general, and their families, who apply inside the country will be barred from getting some visas for personal travel, a third cable said.

For Sierra Leone, only Foreign Ministry and immigration officials will be denied tourist and business visas at the U.S. Embassy in Freetown, according to a fourth cable.

SOME EXCEPTIONS

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In each case, there are exceptions for citizens of the four nations who apply for visas from outside their countries, as well as exceptions on humanitarian grounds or for travel “deemed in the interest of the United States.”

The new rules, which go into effect on Wednesday, do not affect visas that already have been granted.

Visa sanctions are allowed by U.S. immigration law to punish countries that refuse to accept their citizens back from the United States. In practice, the United States has rarely taken that step – just twice in the past decade and a half, according to a Department of Homeland Security spokesman.

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The most recent instance was in October 2016 when the Obama administration stopped issuing visas to Gambian government officials and their families because the government was not taking back U.S. deportees from Gambia. 

Three of the four countries included in the current visa restrictions – Cambodia, Guinea, and Eritrea – were on a July list of nations deemed “recalcitrant” by U.S. immigration authorities. It was unclear immediately why Sierra Leone was included in Tuesday’s action even though it was not on the “recalcitrant” list in July.

Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke sent a letter to the State Department last month identifying the four countries as ones that could face penalties.

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DHS officials say in some cases, the agency has had no choice but to release convicted criminals who served prison time but could not be returned to their home country because it refused to take them back.

The Trump administration has made it a priority to pressure reluctant countries to take back their citizens. As of July, the 12 nations deemed “recalcitrant” were China, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, Iran, Cambodia, Burma, Morocco, Hong Kong, South Sudan, Guinea and Eritrea.

According to 2016 congressional testimony by Michele Bond, former assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, Cuba was the “most recalcitrant country on repatriation of its nationals,” although she did not give numbers.

Other countries then at the top of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) list of recalcitrant countries were China, Somalia and India, Bond said at the time. None of those countries are facing visa sanctions.

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(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed and Yeganeh Torbati; Additional reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Sue Horton and Bill Trott)


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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New documents reveal the military has paid Trump’s Scotland resort more than $180,000

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Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. military has spent more than $180,000 at the Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland while service members have been stopped at the Glasgow Prestwick airport, according to a Pentagon letter sent to the House Oversight Committee.

Politico first reported on and published the letter on Wednesday.

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Accused child molester Roy Moore defends Brett Kavanaugh: ‘I too was the object of false allegations’

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Accused child molester Roy Moore on Wednesday came to the defense of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual assault.

Moore's remarks came after The New York Times published accounts from a new book, which found that two of Kavanaugh's accusers were credible.

In a statement to the press, Moore defended Kavanaugh on Wednesday.

"I too was the subject of false allegations, but unlike Justice Kavanaugh and others who have suffered the ire of the left, I filed suit against my accusers and their conspirators," Moore said. "For over two years, I have not seen nor been able to question any of those who went on national television tol tell their false stories just 32 days before the election in December 2017, and ironically I have been sued for defamation for merely denying their false and malicious accusations."

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Trump says ‘many options’ on Iran response

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US President Donald Trump said Wednesday he has "many options" in addition to military strikes against Iran and that details of newly announced sanctions will come within 48 hours.

Asked by reporters about a possible US attack on Iran, Trump said "there are many options. There's the ultimate option and there are options a lot less than that."

He explained that by "ultimate option" he meant "war."

Trump said that the specifics of sanctions he announced earlier would be made public "over the next 48 hours."

US ally Saudi Arabia says Iran was behind a missile or drone attack setting ablaze major oil facilities last weekend.

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