The U.S. is placing visa restrictions on Myanmar (also known as Burma) and Laos for failing to accept their nationals when the U.S. seeks to deport them.
"Burma and Laos have denied or unreasonably delayed accepting their nationals ordered removed from the United States," the Department of Homeland Security said in a news release.
The State Department Tuesday ordered consular offices in the two countries to begin visa restrictions on certain categories of visas. They are as follows:
BURMA: Discontinuing "issuance of all B1 (work) and B2 (travel) nonimmigrant visas for current officials at the Director General level and above from the Burmese Ministries of Labor, Immigration, and Population (MOLIP) and Home Affairs (MOHA), and their immediate family members, with limited exceptions."
LAOS: Discontinuing "issuance of all B1, B2, and B1/B2 nonimmigrant visas for current officials at the Director General level and above from the Lao Ministry of Public Security (MPS) as well as their immediate families; and all A3 and G5 (diplomatic and employees of international organizations) nonimmigrant visas to individuals employed by Lao government officials, with limited exceptions.
The DHS release adds that "without an appropriate response" the sanctions "may be expanded to a wider population." And they will be continued until DHS determines that "cooperation on removals has improved to an acceptable level."
Myanmar's ambassador to the U.S. expressed bafflement regarding the sanctions.
U Aung Lin told VOA Burmese that his country has fully cooperated with U.S officials to take back immigrants the U.S wanted to deport. He said Myanmar had granted travel documents to 30 of 31 immigrants the U.S wanted to deport, and most have arrived in Myanmar.
He said, Myanmar will continue to cooperate.
Both Myanmar and Laos are on the U.S. recalcitrant country list. The list includes nine countries that refuse to accept citizens deported from the U.S.
Sanctions are a step beyond being placed on the recalcitrant list. DHS says without a travel document to confirm identity and nationality, it cannot complete the deportation process.
"Burma and Laos have not established repeatable processes for issuing travel documents to their nationals ordered removed from the United States," DHS said. "For this reason, ICE has been required to release Burmese and Lao nationals into the United States, some with serious criminal convictions.