Washington — Advocacy organizations representing immigrant communities of color are denouncing punitive measures from the Trump administration targeting Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. The administration’s latest actions continue a trend of attacks against immigrants, especially underrepresented immigrants of color, and effectively condemns entire immigrant populations to poverty.
Recently, the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, announced visa sanctions on Cambodia, Eritrea, Sierra Leone and Guinea immediately halting all issuance of temporary visas for those nationals. While the administration cited the reason being that these countries do not accept deportees back from the United States, the organizations question the measure. Guinea and Eritrea will be the most severely impacted by this announcement, with Cambodia and Sierra Leone mostly impacting government officials ability to travel to United States.
Advocates are also weary of what is to come of the list of “recalcitrant countries” which includes over 30 countries, many of which are African or Asian.
Patrice Lawrence, National Advocacy and Policy Coordinator for the UndocuBlack Network explains, “The Trump administration has effectively issued a threat to these four countries and the others that have maintained their sovereignty; we cannot allow DHS’ attempt to erase our African and Asian brothers and sisters.” Lawrence continued, “We understand that these sanctions are only some of many tools of isolation that have been used for centuries. If communities are torn apart, relatives prevented from joining their loved ones, entrepreneurs unable to advance their businesses, they imagine they can break us. We will not allow this white supremacist to issue his threats against our communities under the falsehood of protecting Americans.”
“As the Trump administration continues to reveal themselves as anti black, anti immigration, and white supremacist, we must continue to show them the face of triumph and resilience. The recent visa sanctions on Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, and Sierra Leone are a continuation of failed and racist policies that will be challenged on all fronts. Although this ban — yet another one — covers mostly government officials, the limiting of travel to the U.S from people, and countries of color is concerning,” said Denzel, an advocate in the UndocuBlack Network
“These visa sanctions target immigrants that have escaped war and global health crises. Like most of Trump’s policies, the sanctions are truly inhumane and chip away at the ability of Black people and immigrants to live, thrive, and pursue opportunities in the U.S.,” said Opal Tometi, Executive Director, Black Alliance for Just Immigration and Co-Founder, Black Lives Matter Global Network.
“The Trump administration’s visa sanctions on these four countries target some of the most vulnerable communities, including refugees who have survived unimaginable trauma,” said Quyen Dinh, executive director of SEARAC. “Instead of attacking loving, hard-working families, we must invest our resources in uniting around real, humane, long-lasting solutions that prioritize peace, and build our communities and economy up, not tear them both down. We call on our Congressional leaders to stand with us to protect all families and denounce these sanctions.”
“Advancing Justice | AAJC is saddened that the administration is targeting vulnerable refugees and immigrants from Cambodia, Eritrea, Sierra Leone and Guinea who have fled violence, persecution and extreme poverty,” said Megan Essaheb, Director of Immigration Advocacy at Advancing Justice | AAJC. “The Cambodians that the government seeks to deport were largely born in refugee camps and came here as children knowing no other country than the U.S. as their home. We urge Congress to step up and intervene on behalf of these immigrants and refugees.”
“The State Department should not be strong-arming small African countries into accepting deportees when there are questions about their nationality. This action raises troubling questions about both national sovereignty and individual due process rights,” said Amaha Kassa, Executive Director of African Communities Together, an advocacy group for African immigrants in America.
According to DHS, the specific sanctions effective September 13, 2017 are listed below:
· The U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia has discontinued the issuance of B visas (temporary visitors for business or pleasure) for Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs employees, with the rank of Director General and above, and their families.
· The U.S. Embassy in Asmara, Eritrea has discontinued the issuance of all B visas (temporary visitors for business or pleasure).
· The United States Embassy in Conakry, Guinea has discontinued the issuance of B visas (temporary visitors for business or pleasure), and F, J, and M visas (temporary visitors for student and exchange programs) to Guinean government officials and their immediate family members.
· The United States Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone has discontinued the issuance of B visas (temporary visitors for business or pleasure) to Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and immigration officials.
The organizations taking a stand against the visa sanctions include: UndocuBlack Network, Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), African Communities Together (ACT), Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. Others are New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), National Immigration Law Center (NILC).