Biden administration lifts most of visa sanctions for Laos

US Army photo of US Army helicopters over Laos via Wikimedia Creative Commons

The Biden administration has lifted most of its visa sanctions on Laos, a significant move for many Southeast Asian Americans.

This will positively influence many refugees and families who came over after the war in Southeast Asia, according to experts.

The Trump-era immigration ban had stopped travel and visas from being issued to the people in Laos. This development is an end to the ban, which could reunite some 2000 people with their families, according to NBC News

“Over the last few years, they’ve been unable to sponsor their spouses or kids … because of these arbitrary sanctions that are very ethnically based,” said Kham Moua, director of national policy at the nonprofit Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, according to NBC News. “For us to see the administration take the steps for lifting was a really great first step to undo some of the harm that’s been done by the Trump administration.”

The memo from the Biden administration states that the majority of the citizens that have applied and will apply for travel or immigration visas will no longer be subjected to the ban, which was authorized by Secretary of State Antony Blinken. However, it notes that some, including certain government officials, will continue to be banned depending on how well that government cooperates with U.S. demands to accept deportees.

This change came after more than 30 advocacy groups and members of Congress signed a letter demanding the Department of Homeland Security lift the Trump-era sanctions, one of them being on Laos, according to Financial Assets. The letter called the sanction a “backdoor immigration ban.”

“The visa sanctions continue to harm refugees and asylum seekers in the United States by tearing families apart and forcing governments seeking to harm asylum seekers to repatriate those individuals,” the letter said, which was addressed to the Biden administration in September.

The Laotian American community is largely made up of refugee populations that fled their communist countries in the U.S. occupations in the 1970s, according to NBC News. To reunite with their families, they have been relying on immigration. However, it has been very difficult for the Laotian community with or without the sanction ban, explained Moua.

Laotian Times reported that according to the embassy, Laotians applying for a visa to the U.S. should expect delays as the country processes a backlog of visa applications that were previously suspended.

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