Trump threatens to withhold visas for countries that don't quickly repatriate citizens

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden on Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power: 'What country are we in?' Romney: 'Unthinkable and unacceptable' to not commit to peaceful transition of power Two Louisville police officers shot amid Breonna Taylor grand jury protests MORE on Friday issued a memo threatening to withhold visas for people from countries that do not quickly repatriate their citizens from the U.S. due to concerns over the coronavirus.

Trump wrote in a memo to the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that the DHS secretary will notify the secretary of State if any government denies or 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 pandemic.

Within seven days of proper notification, the State Department will then initiate a plan to impose visa sanctions under an executive order Trump signed in January. Those sanctions can be repealed if DHS deems the targeted country has resumed accepting people “without unreasonable delay.”

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“Countries that deny or unreasonably delay the acceptance of their citizens, subjects, nationals, or residents from the United States during the ongoing pandemic … create unacceptable public health risks for Americans,” Trump wrote in the memo. “The United States must be able to effectuate the repatriation of foreign nationals who violate the laws of the United States.”

The State Department and DHS did not immediately respond to inquiries from The Hill regarding what led to the memorandum and if any country in particular was being targeted.

"There is a profound public health threat posed by individuals overstaying the terms of their admission, or entering the U.S. unlawfully, unchecked, and unscreened during the pandemic," a senior administration official told The Hill when asked about the memo. "It is imperative that the United States Government be able to expeditiously remove and return any foreign national to their country of origin if they are not in the U.S. lawfully."

While Trump has caught flak for his initial handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which critics have said was insufficient, the president has vowed to take tough action to curb the virus’s spread.

The memo plays to Trump’s past harsh rhetoric toward other countries, accusing world powers of taking advantage of the U.S. over supposedly unfair trade deals and other issues.

The Trump administration has prioritized repatriating U.S. citizens from around the world back to the country amid the coronavirus pandemic. The State Department has coordinated the repatriation of 56,385 Americans from 101 countries since January 29, according to figures last updated Friday.