The State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) is dedicated to keeping Americans safe by deploying a variety of tools to counter crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad. While best known for our foreign assistance programs, INL can draw from a large toolbox to hold bad actors accountable. Over the past year, a new team has ramped up implementation of visa restrictions and anti-crime rewards programs with the goal of preventing corrupt officials and their immediate family members from vacationing in, studying in, or enjoying our great country.
In 2019, the State Department has publicly designated almost 40 individuals due to their involvement in significant corruption. Those actions send a powerful message to the most corrupt around the world that the United States is committed to fighting corruption everywhere and stands with people in any country who seek to stop corrupt officials from acting illegally and with impunity.
One way the United States can tackle this problem is by using a powerful tool available to the State Department under Section 7031(c) of the annual appropriations bill, which renders current and former officials involved in corruption, as well as their family members, ineligible for entry into the United States. Generally, when an individual is determined to be covered by Section 7031(c), that person cannot obtain a U.S. visa and will not be permitted to enter the United States. This legislation allows the State Department to publicly designate or identify officials of foreign governments and their immediate family members, which lets the world know the United States holds those officials accountable for their corrupt actions. Ministers, mayors, and members of parliament have felt the impact of these designations in countries as diverse as Kenya, Romania, and Guatemala.
Governments cannot fight corruption alone. As such, we welcome information from civil society, media, the private sector, and individual citizens on corruption in their countries. This information is valuable as we assess the corruption situation in countries across the globe and ultimately may lead to visa ineligibilities.
We are seeing anticorruption protests and surges in political will to tackle this difficult issue in many countries. The State Department is taking action as part of a whole of government effort, including through the Treasury Department’s implementation of the Global Magnitsky sanctions program and our law enforcement partners’ investigations into complex, transnational corruption cases that adversely affect the United States. Our joint actions demonstrate that the United States will continue to employ these tools to hold the corrupt accountable, protect innocent citizens from being robbed of their hard-earned income, and deter further criminal behavior.
As the world commemorates International Anticorruption Day, the State Department renews its commitment to stand by citizens around the world calling for transparent, accountable governments. We will continue to apply all the tools at our disposal to answer this call and help disrupt transnational criminal organizations and combat pervasive corruption globally.
About the Author: Marianne Toussaint serves in the Bureau of International Natrcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.