Order comes in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic
U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered the relevant departments of his administration to impose visa sanctions against countries that do not accept their citizens who are currently in the U.S., if the U.S. seeks to repatriate them to their home countries. The order is motivated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as per a memorandum issued released by the White House on Friday night (Washington DC time).
“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 United States must be able to effectuate the repatriation of foreign nationals who violate the laws of the United States,” the order says.
As it is worded, the scope of the order is unclear. While the clause above says it is motivated by the U.S. wanting to repatriate foreigners violating U.S. , there is another clause that says the sanctions process could be initiated if a foreign country delays accepting its nationals and such an action hampers the U.S.’s response to the ongoing pandemic.
The Secretary of Homeland Security shall inform the Secretary of State, “… if any government of a foreign country denies or unreasonably delays the acceptance of aliens who are citizens, subjects, nationals, or residents of that country after being asked to accept those aliens, and if such denial or delay is impeding operations of the Department of Homeland Security necessary to respond to the ongoing pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2.”
Within seven days of receiving such a notice from Homeland Security, the Secretary of State is required to initiate a plan to impose visa sanctions. Sanctions shall end when the Secretary of Homeland Security certifies that the host countries are accepting their nationals.
The memorandum expires on December 31 this year unless extended.