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U.S. Visa Sanctions Unnecessary, Inhumane Weapon of Immigration Enforcement

The United States should use its influence to address ongoing crises across the globe, not pursue deportations of potentially vulnerable people.

By UUSC on July 13, 2018

The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) condemns the imposition of new visa restrictions on Burma (also known as Myanmar) and Laos. These sanctions are designed to compel these countries to process deportations from the United States, but in reality will expose U.S. residents – many of them refugees who have spent years building lives in the United States – to the risk of possible deportation.

UUSC expresses concern and solidarity with the affected communities, including the more than 5,000 Rohingya refugees from Burma who have arrived in the United States since 2015, fleeing violence and human rights abuses at the hands of the Burmese government. The United States should use its influence and leverage to halt these atrocities, rather than pursue deportations of potentially vulnerable people.

This use of sanctions is an extreme measure, only pursued twice prior to the Trump administration. In the past year, however, the United States has increasingly weaponized sanctions as a tactic of immigration enforcement.

In September 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) imposed sanctions against Guinea, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia, with a similar goal of compelling these countries to process deportations. Immigrants and refugees from these countries have fled health emergencies, civil wars, a brutally repressive regime in Eritrea, and one of the worst genocides in human history in Cambodia.

As with the administration’s other immigration policies, these sanctions primarily target people of color – including many people displaced by the United States’ own policies. Laos, like its neighbor Cambodia, was the site of a U.S.-conducted “secret war” in the 1960s and 1970s that killed thousands of people and created a generation of refugees.

UUSC will continue to work with our partner in the UndocuBlack Network, who are calling for an to end this unjust practice, and grassroots organizations in Burma working for justice and accountability in the face of crimes against humanity.

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