President Trump’s 1/27/17 executive order directed the Departments of State and Homeland Security to force “recalcitrant” countries to accept the repatriation of their citizens, most of whom committed criminal acts in the United States. Reports indicate the Administration is making headway since the number of recalcitrant countries is down and more criminal aliens are being deported.

Refusing repatriation is a serious problem because, under the Supreme Court ruling in Zadvydas v. Davis, ICE must release criminal aliens onto the streets if their home country denies repatriation for six months. In many instances these aliens go on to commit other crimes, including murder.

A 2016 House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report showed the Obama Administration during a three-year period released 86,288 potential deportees who committed 231,074 crimes. As of June 2016, there were 953,806 aliens in the United States with outstanding orders of removal, 242,772 of which came from recalcitrant countries. At the end of Obama’s term, 23 countries were considered recalcitrant.

After President Trump’s executive order, the State Department threatened to sanction recalcitrant countries with the loss of U.S. visas. By December 2017 the list of recalcitrant countries dropped to nine. Four of the countries on the current list are holdovers from the Obama administration: Cuba, China, Eritrea and Iran. Five are additions from the Trump administration: Cambodia, Hong Kong, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

The U.S. had been repatriating Cambodian nationals under a 2002 agreement but that deal fell apart last year. This prompted the Trump administration to impose visa sanctions on Cambodian officials and families. The two governments struck a new agreement in early 2018 for the repatriation of greater numbers Cambodian nationals. As a result, removals to Cambodia increased 279 percent from Fiscal Year 2017 to Fiscal Year 2018. Just this week, ICE announced the deportation of 36 Cambodian nationals, including 34 criminals with convictions for murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, sexual assault, and other offenses.

Last week the Administration announced it would step up efforts to pressure Vietnam to repatriate more of its criminal nationals. Between 1998 and 2016, Vietnam accepted only about 30 deported repatriates each year. The problem was an agreement between the countries that barred the deportation of Vietnamese nationals who arrived in the United States prior to July 12, 1995 — the date when the countries re-established diplomatic relations. If Vietnam agrees to drop the prohibition, it would allow the deportation of at least 9,000 Vietnamese nationals in early 2019.

Updated: Wed, Jan 2nd 2019 @ 5:30pm EST