President Donald Trump has vowed to go after countries that refuse to accept their citizens under deportation orders in the United States. Legislation by a Texas congressman would give him new tools to deliver on that pledge.
In an executive order signed last month, Trump directed the State and Homeland Security departments to “ensure that diplomatic efforts and negotiations with foreign states include as a condition … the acceptance by those foreign states of their nationals who are subject to removal from the United States.”
Legislation by Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) includes a provision available but rarely used under existing law — suspension of visas for countries that are deemed non-cooperative in accepting their citizens who have been convicted of crimes and ordered deported. The bill also would:
- Withhold foreign aid to countries that refuse to take back citizens who have been convicted of crimes and ordered deported.
- Require the Department of Homeland Security to submit a report to Congress every three months listing the uncooperative countries.
- Allow victims of crimes by illegal immigrants to sue in federal court.
“There is absolutely no reason that criminal aliens should be released back onto America’s streets, yet that is exactly what is happening by the thousands each and every year because their countries of origin refuse to take them back,” Babin said in a prepared statement.
Government data suggests it is more than a trivial problem. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials list 23 countries as “recalcitrant” when it comes to deportations. A report released in October by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) indicates that 242,772 people have final deportation orders but cannot be returned home because they come from one of those 23 countries or 62 others deemed “non-cooperative.” That is a quarter of the 953,806 illegal immigrants who had been ordered deported but remain in America.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, said Babin’s bill is needed. Even if Trump takes strong action, she said, a law passed by Congress would apply to future administrations. And it would have new tools with which to apply pressure, she added.
Vaughan said the Obama administration should have moved sooner and more aggressively to use the leverage it did have.
Vaughan said Babin’s bill would make it clear that leverage “wasn’t put there to be window dressing; it was put there to be used.”
The prospects for Babin’s bill are unclear. He introduced it last year, but it did not get a vote in the House of Representatives. This year, 29 representatives — including Democrat Henry Cuellar of Texas — have signed on as co-sponsors.