Yintang Cao, a Chinese national who served time for hawking counterfeit designer purses, was freed from immigration detention last week after the U.S. failed to win permission from China to deport him. Emil Al Seryani, a Jordanian citizen convicted of burglary and drug dealing, was released March 7, again after deportation efforts failed. Their return to their lives in the U.S. contradicts one of President Trump’s signature campaign promises: to deport criminals, even to countries that do not want them back, the Washington Post reports. As a candidate, Trump criticized the Obama administration and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for releasing thousands of criminals who might have been deported had the U.S. imposed sanctions on their uncooperative homelands. “Day One, my first hour in office, those people are gone,” Trump said.
Now, Trump is confronting the same diplomatic and legal challenges as did his predecessors, including whether to jeopardize national security and economic interests so that a nation such as China will accept all deportees. A former immigration official said that Trump and his supporters are stymied by the same issues they insisted could be solved quickly. “It’s very difficult when you have recalcitrant countries that typically will not take those individuals back,” said John Sandweg, acting director under Obama of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which oversees deportations. “I’m not at all surprised to see that the Trump administration is having to release people.” The White House said Trump is doing what he can, including an executive order telling Homeland Security and the State Department to deny visas to nations that do not cooperate with deportations. “The ball is in their court,” said Michael Short, a White House spokesman. The State Department said it has not acted on the order.