The US State Department said it will stop issuing certain kinds of visas to citizens of Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea and Sierra Leone, due to their refusal to take back deported citizens.
In its announcement about the visa sanctions, DHS said the four countries had not been reliable in issuing travel documents for their citizens. Any Eritreans who apply in their own country for most USA business or tourist visas will be rejected, according to one of the cables.
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 US Embassy in Cambodia today stopped issuing visas to senior Cambodian foreign ministry officials and their families, an action initiated by the US Department of Homeland Security.
By delaying or refusing to issue travel documents to their citizens, the most common of which is a passport, or refusing accept their nationals within this time period, these countries have forced U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release thousands of risky criminals into communities across the United States.
Visas already granted are not affected by the new rules.
In Cambodia, the sanction is tailored.
The State Department has declined to comment publicly on the visa sanctions, and it remains unclear why Sierra Leone was sanctioned despite not being one of the 12 recalcitrant countries.
Cambodia under a 2002 agreement with the United States has accepted the repatriation of about 500 such returnees.
In practice, the USA has rarely taken that step - just twice in the past decade and a half, according to a Department of Homeland Security spokesman.
The most recent instance was in October 2016, when the Obama administration stopped issuing visas to Gambian government officials and their families, because the government was not taking back United States deportees from the Gambia.
Three of the four countries included in the current visa restrictions were on a list of nations deemed "recalcitrant" by USA immigration authorities in July.
Sierra Leone was not on that list, according to Reuters. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert confirmed the restrictions have been imposed in all four countries effective Wednesday, according to AP.
A July list of countries considered "recalcitrant", or unwilling to take back their citizens from the US, named Burma, China, Cuba, Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Iran, Laos, Morocco and South Sudan.
Department of Homeland Security officials said that in some cases, the agency had no choice but to release convicted criminals who served prison time but could not be returned to their home country because it refused to take them back.
"American citizens have been harmed because foreign governments refuse to take back their citizens", said ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan.