Rep. Omar Leads Letter Calling on DHS to Lift Trump-Era Visa Sanctions

September 21, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON—Today, Rep. Omar (D-MN) led a letter calling on the Biden Administration to end the continued  implementation of visa sanctions enacted under President Trump. These sanctions have resulted in increased removals of refugees and asylum seekers from Africa and Southeast Asia.  

“We write to express our deep concerns about the Department of Homeland Security’s continued implementation of the 243(d) visa sanctions enacted under the Trump Administration, despite revocation of Executive Order 13768,” the Members wrote. “These sanctions have led to a significant increase in removals of African asylum seekers and Southeast Asian refugees between 2017 and 2020, and some sanctions, such as those on Laos, continue to serve as a backdoor immigration ban to the United States. We urge you to lift the sanctions against Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, Eritrea, and Laos and conduct a full review of the remaining sanctions. The visa sanctions continue to harm refugees and asylum seekers in the United States by tearing families apart and forcing governments seeking to harm asylum seekers to repatriate those individuals.”

During the Trump Administration, the Department of Homeland Security escalated efforts to deport African and Southeast Asian immigrants by placing multiple visa sanctions on African and Southeast Asian countries. Of particular concern is the continued implementation of the visa sanctions on Laos which prevents the processing of all immigration visas for Hmong, Lao, and other Laotians seeking to immigrate to the United States and has prevented U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents from rightfully sponsoring their families to the United States. 

In addition to arbitrarily keeping families separated through all our immigration channels, these sanctions have also separated and harmed families in the United States. Their implementation has resulted in increased removals of refugees and asylum seekers from Africa and Southeast Asia, with the sanction on Cambodia leading to a 258% increase in deportations of Cambodian refugees between 2017 and 2018. 

The letter calls on Secretary Mayorkas and Secretary Blinken to lift the sanctions on Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, Eritrea, and Laos and conduct a full review of all 243(d) visa sanctions.

The letter is signed by Reps. Bass, Sara Jacobs, Ocasio-Cortez, Clarke, Pressley and Jayapal, Lowenthal, Chu, Pocan, and Correa.

The letter is endorsed by African Communities Together, African Public Affairs Committee, Alianza Americas, Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO, Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants, Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel, Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC), Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, Laotian American National Alliance (LANA), Mai N. Moua Law Office, MN8 (previously Release MN8), National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates, Rising Voices, a project of Tides Advocacy, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), South Asian Public Health Association (SAPHA), Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), Southeast Asian Freedom Network, The Advocates for Human Rights, The Advocates for Human Rights, UndocuBlack Network, Vietlead, Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign.

You can read the full letter here and below.