There is nothing new about U.S. complaints regarding China’s lack of cooperation in repatriating its citizens who have been ordered deported.
Nevertheless, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has suspended cooperation in such cases in retaliation for the visit by Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.
China also canceled other efforts to keep communication channels open with Washington. Those included attempts to coordinate air and sea operations to prevent unintentional flare-ups, for example, by warships operating close to each other at sea.
The tit-for-tat regarding deportees may escalate because under law U.S. the Biden administration can punish countries that refuse to cooperate on deportations by refusing to issue new visas to that country’s citizens.
Section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act allows the U.S. to retaliate against countries that fail to repatriate deportees:
On being notified by the Attorney General that the government of a foreign country denies or unreasonably delays accepting an alien who is a citizen, subject, national, or resident of that country after the Attorney General asks whether the government will accept the alien under this section, the Secretary of State shall order consular officers in that foreign country to discontinue granting immigrant visas or nonimmigrant visas, or both, to citizens, subjects, nationals, and residents of that country until the Attorney General notifies the Secretary that the country has accepted the alien.
In 2021, the U.S. started distributing notices “discontinuing” visa issuance for certain individuals:
[W]e are unable to issue a visa to you today, because issuance of your visa has been temporarily discontinued under Section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Secretary of Homeland Security has notified the Secretary of State that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) denies or unreasonably delays accepting the return of its citizens, subjects, nationals or residents subject to final orders of removal from the United States, and the Secretary of State has ordered consular officers in the PRC to discontinue granting B 1, B2, B 1 /B2, F 1, F2, Jl, and J2 for PRC officials who are holding the rank of deputy director (or equivalent) and above who are employed by the PRC’s National Immigration Administration (including the Exit and Entry Bureau) as well as their spouses and children under the age of 21 whether married or unmarried; and officials currently employed by the National Supervisory Commission, Ministry of State Security, and Ministry of Public Security and the spouses and children under 30 of the above officials. Consistent with the Secretary’s order, the issuance of your visa has been suspended. Applicants cannot appeal the suspension and we will not refund the visa application fee.
When the Secretary of Homeland Security notifies the Secretary of State that the PRC has complied with U.S. requests relating to acceptance of its national or nationals, the normal issuance of visas will resume. A consular officer will review your application and reassess your eligibility for the visa classification sought at that time, and may contact you as necessary regarding it.
Now, the Biden administration may feel pressure to broaden the scope of these visa sanctions.
The cooperation Washington seeks is for Beijing to verify the citizenship of persons with final orders of removal from the U.S., a process that might require visits to distant villages and towns to search household registration records.
Without such cooperation, the U.S. needs to pay the cost of detention or run the risk that persons released from detention will abscond.