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Trump is winning the battle against countries sending their criminals to the US


After serving time for two rape convictions, Vietnamese native Thong Van was released into an American community rather than being deported. He then shot two veteran California prison guards, leaving both of them in critical condition. He was returned to prison but still wasn’t deported. Haitian native Jean Jacques, who had been incarcerated for attempted murder, was also released back onto the streets instead of being immediately deported. He then took the life of 25-year-old Casey Chadwick.

Both of these incidents were entirely preventable, but sadly they’re just the tip of a public safety iceberg that most Americans aren’t even aware of. Both men hail from what U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) calls recalcitrant countries – nations that refuse to accept the return of their own citizens when the U.S. attempts to deport them. Because of a 2001 Supreme Court ruling in Zadvydas v. Davis, criminal aliens who can’t be returned to their home countries must eventually be released into our communities, with little supervision. Unfortunately, a startling number go on to reoffend, committing heinous crimes that would have been preventable, had we just been able to send them home.

{mosads}One of the pillars of President Trump’s campaign pledge on immigration reform was to force recalcitrant countries to take back their own. On January 25, the president issued the “Enhancing Internal Immigration Enforcement” executive order, which put countries on notice that the U.S. would no longer turn a blind eye to their refusal to take back their citizens. That threat alone caused the official list of recalcitrant countries to drop from 20 to 12, but now the administration is reportedly ready to back up its words with action.


U.S. law allows the Department of State to stop issuing visas to nationals of countries that won’t take their own citizens back. Most prior administrations have been unwilling to exercise this option, fearing diplomatic and economic fallout. But President Trump, ever the pragmatist, has acknowledged the danger that recalcitrant countries force on American communities. In order to protect American lives, he seems determined to force recalcitrant countries to honor their legal and moral obligations to repatriate their less desirable citizens.

If the Trump administration doesn’t blink, the United States will succeed in sending a clear message: Take your problem children back. We will no longer be the home of last resort for criminals from abroad. And although, according to media reports, only four nations – Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea and Sierra Leone – are on the Trump fix-it list, any action coercing recalcitrant countries to step up and do the right thing is a positive step toward preventing future immigrant crime.

Moving forward, the U.S. will stop issuing new visas to residents of the four listed nations until they agree to take back their own citizens when they are no longer welcome in the United States. The ability to visit and do business in the U.S. is highly coveted, and threat of a moratorium on visa issuance will leave many countries ready to rethink their unwillingness to cooperate with ICE efforts to carry out deportations.

Ending the problem of recalcitrant countries will go a long way in reducing immigrant crime in the U.S. The ill-considered Zadvydas decision has resulted in American communities being forced to cope with a yearly influx of thousands of criminal aliens from recalcitrant countries who simply should not be allowed to remain here. If the Trump administration successfully brings recalcitrant countries to heel, those foreign criminals will be forced to return home, providing much needed relief to over-burdened ICE officials, and local police officers.

It’s shocking that the U.S. is being forced to take these steps in the first place. As a matter of comity, countries that send immigrants here should be willing to take them back. In addition, international law requires states to re-admit their own nationals when they return home, regardless of the manner in which they return. America readily re-admits the relatively few U.S. citizens who are deported from other countries. It has an unfettered right to expect the same from fellow members of the international community. 

Matt O’Brien is a former chief of the National Security Division within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He has also served as assistant chief counsel in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s New York district. He is currently the director of research at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Donald Trump Illegal immigration Immigration reform Matt O'Brien U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Zadvydas v. Davis

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