Category Archives: Consular Work

U.S. Embassy Mexico Bars Personnel From Non-Essential Travel to Acapulco

– Domani Spero

 

 

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The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City recently released the following emergency message to U.S. citizens in the country:

This message is to inform U.S. citizens that protests and violent incidents continue in Guerrero state in response to the disappearance of 43 students there.  Embassy personnel have been instructed to defer non-essential travel to Acapulco, by air or land, to include the federal toll road (“cuota”) 95D to/from Mexico City and Acapulco.  Furthermore, road travel in all other parts of the state remains prohibited.  Travel by air to and from Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo is still permitted.  The Embassy cautions U.S. citizens to follow the same guidelines.

The Acapulco Consular Agency remains open.

The Mexican Constitution prohibits political activities by foreigners; such actions may result in detention and/or deportation.  Travelers should avoid political demonstrations and other activities that might be deemed political by the Mexican authorities.  Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.  Demonstrators in Mexico may block traffic on roads, including major arteries, or take control of toll booths on highways.  U.S. citizens are urged to avoid areas of demonstrations, and to exercise caution if in the vicinity of any protests.

Read the full announcement here.

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Filed under Americans Abroad, Consular Work, Protests, Realities of the FS, Security, State Department, U.S. Missions

State Dept Re-attached to the Internet, and About Those “Unrelated” Embassy Outages

– Domani Spero

 

A few hours ago, we posted this: State Dept Spox on outages at embassies: “separate”, “unconnected”, “unrelated” — wowie zowie!

It looks like the State Department was re-attached to the Internet sometime this morning. Although as of this writing, go.state.gov is still down for “temporary maintenance.”

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Screen capture of http://go.state.gov, still current as of 11/19/2014

Here’s what we’ve learned about the embassy outages:

The Consular Consolidated Database is apparently unaffected, as are visa and passport services.

EXCEPT that Consular Sections were unable to accept credit card payments because those are connected to the Internet, which was unavailable from the State Department’s OpenNet.

Here’s how OpenNet is described in the FAM:

OpenNet is a physical and logical Internet Protocol (IP)-based global network that links the Department of State’s Local Area Networks (LANs) domestically and abroad. The physical aspect of the network uses DTS circuits for posts abroad, FTS-2001-provided circuits, leased lines, and dial-up public switch networks. This includes interconnected hubs, routers, bridges, switches, and cables. The logical aspect of the network uses Integrated Enterprise Management System (NMS) and TCP/IP software, and other operational network applications. OpenNet is a Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) network, which supports e-mail and data applications.

We understand that the American Citizen Services (ACS) Units, in particular, were not able to process payments by credit cards. Since the Internet connection issue had been reportedly resolved earlier today, we hope that this has resolved itself, too.

As to visa services, those are connected to the Global Support Strategy (GSS) contract, and 99% of fees would have been collected through the GSS contractor, not at post.

EXCEPT that most GSS contractors do scheduling via their own 3rd party websites, which would not be able to be accessed from OpenNet. If visa scheduling had delays, that would be because posts had to find a non-OpenNet Internet connection to update scheduling slots, as necessary.

A note on the GSS:  The GSS contracts provide support services for nonimmigrant and immigrant visa operations at United States consulates and embassies abroad, including but not limited to public inquiry services, appointment services, fee collection services, biometric enrollment services, document delivery services and data collection services.

So when the State Department spox said that these outages were not connected and were unrelated, well –

Congratulations! You sound nice at the podium but what the heck were you talking about?

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Oops! What’s this? Updated at 1552 PST Nov 19:

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 3.44.20 PM

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Filed under Consular Work, Foreign Service, Huh? News, Security, State Department, Technology and Work, U.S. Missions

Burn Bag: Consular Leadership Tenet #5: Something Seriously Wrong With the CCD. Communicate?

Via Burn Bag:

“Why is the CCD [Consular Consolidated Database] such a piece of trash lately and when is Senior CA [Consular Affairs] Management going to communicate honestly with the Field what the problem is?  Anyone with a brain can tell there is something seriously wrong with the system.”

giphy_daleks

by rhetthammersmithhorror.tumblr.com via giphy.com

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State Dept Issues Burkina Faso Travel Alert (Expires on January 29, 2015)

– Domani Spero

 

We’ve previously blogged about Burkina Faso here (see Burkina Faso Says Bye Bye Blaise: Martial Law Lifted, Nationwide Curfew, Shelter in Place Still OnUS Embassy Ouagadougou: Burkina Faso Now on Martial Law; Embassy Staff Shelters in Place; Some of the World’s ‘Forever’ Rulers Are in Town — Meet Their Fashionable Ladies (Photos).

Yesterday, after three days of chaos, the State Department issued a Travel Alert informing U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Burkina Faso following the fall of the government of  President Compaore:

The State Department alerts U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to or residing in Burkina Faso and recommends U.S. citizens defer all non-essential travel.  This Travel Alert will expire on January 29, 2015.

On October 31, Burkina Faso’s President Compaore resigned.  The status of a transitional government remains unclear.  There are incidents of looting throughout the capital city of Ouagadougou, Bobo-Dioulasso, and other parts of the country.

The situation is dynamic and closures or openings of border and airports are likely to change and remain unpredictable for some time.  Currently, land and air borders have been closed.  U.S. citizens should stay informed and abreast of local media reports for land border and airport updates.

U.S. citizens in Burkina Faso may find that at times sheltering in place may be the only and best security option.

U.S. citizens residing in Burkina Faso should remain vigilant and utilize appropriate personal security practices.  Avoid large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations; maintain situational awareness and exercise good judgment; be alert and remain aware of your surroundings; and stay abreast of the situation through media outlets.

Read in full here.

Meanwhile –

 

 

 

Yesterday, the State Department expressed concern over the transfer of power in Burkina Faso:

The United States is concerned about the unfolding events in Burkina Faso.  We regret the violence and the loss of life in Burkina Faso and call on all parties to avoid further violence.  We reiterate our call for all parties to follow the constitutionally mandated process for the transfer of power and holding of democratic elections following the resignation of former President Blaise Compaore.  We condemn any attempts by the military or other parties to take advantage of the situation for unconstitutional gain and call on all parties to respect the people’s support for the democratic process.

According to Vice News, Lieutenant Colonel Yacouba Isaac Zida, who assumed power has been a member of the military for more than 20 years, and served as the second in command of the ex-president’s security regiment. This is apparently, the seventh time a military officer has seized power since Burkina Faso won its independence from France more than 50 years ago. If history is any indication, he may still be around in 2022 in the “land of upright people.”

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Filed under Africa, Americans Abroad, Consular Work, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Foreign Service, Security, Spectacular, State Department, U.S. Missions

CRS: Ebola Outbreak – Quarantine v. Isolation, Travel Restrictions, Select Legal Issues

– Domani Spero

 

On October 25, WaPo reported that the governors of New York Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered on Friday the imposition of a mandatory 21-day quarantine for medical workers returning from the countries hit hardest by the ebola epidemic. Illinois later in the day imposed similar restrictions. Today, NYT reported that the Obama administration has expressed deep concerns to the governors and is consulting with them to modify their orders to quarantine medical volunteers returning from West Africa.

Ebola CRS report via Secrecy News (pdf):

On August 8th, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The recent arrival in the United States of several health care workers who contracted the disease, combined with the first diagnosis of a case in the U.S. at a hospital in Dallas, has sparked discussion about the appropriate government response. Aside from the various policy considerations at issue, the outbreak has generated several legal questions about the federal government’s authority to restrict specific passengers’ travel and/or contain the outbreak of an infectious disease. These questions include, inter alia, whether the federal government may: (1) restrict which countries U.S. nationals may travel to in the event of a public health crisis; (2) bar the entry into the United States of people who may have been infected by a disease; and (3) impose isolation or quarantine measures in order to control infectious diseases.

Passport restrictions on which countries U.S. citizens may visit can be imposed by the Secretary of State. Pursuant to the Passport Act, the Secretary of State may “grant and issue passports” according to rules designated by the President, and may impose restrictions on the use of passports to travel to countries “where there is imminent danger to the public health or the physical safety of United States travellers” (sic). The Supreme Court has recognized that the authority to “grant and issue” passports includes the power to impose “area restrictions” – limits on travel to specific countries (restrictions must comply with the Due Process Clause of the Constitution). Although passport restrictions are not criminally enforceable, they may prevent travelers from boarding a flight to a restricted area.

Restrictions may also be imposed on who may enter the United States, though the range of applicable restrictions may differ depending upon whether a person seeking entry into the country is a U.S. national. The government enjoys authority under federal immigration law to bar the entry of a foreign national on specific health-related grounds, including when a particular foreign national is determined to have a “communicable disease of public health significance.” More broadly, section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act authorizes the President, pursuant to proclamation, to direct the denial of entry to any alien or class of aliens whose entry into the country “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

These restrictions do not apply to U.S. citizens, who may enjoy a constitutional right to reenter the country. Nonetheless, certain travel restrictions may impede the ability of any person – regardless of citizenship – from traveling to the United States in a manner that potentially exposes others to a communicable disease. For example, airlines flying to the U.S. are permitted under Department of Transportation regulations to refuse transportation to passengers with infectious diseases who have been determined to pose a “direct threat” to the health and safety of others. In making this determination, airlines may rely on directives from the CDC and other government agencies. Pilots of flights to the United States are also required to report certain illnesses they encounter during flight before arrival into the U.S.

In addition, the Department of Homeland Security and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintain a public health “Do Not Board” (DNB) list, which contains the names of people who are likely to be contagious with a communicable disease, may not adhere to public health recommendations, and are likely to board an aircraft. Airlines are not permitted to issue a boarding pass to people on the DNB list for flights departing from or arriving into the United States. People placed on the DNB list are also “assigned a public health lookout record,” which will alert Customs and Border Protection officers in the event the person attempts to enter the country through a port of entry. The CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (DGMQ) can conduct exit screening at foreign airports to identify travelers with communicable diseases and alert the relevant local authorities.

Finally, both federal and state governments have authority to impose isolation and quarantine measures to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. While the terms are often used interchangeably, quarantine and isolation are actually two distinct concepts. Quarantine typically refers to separating or restricting the movement of individuals who have been exposed to a contagious disease but are not yet sick. Isolation refers to separating infected individuals from those who are not sick. Historically, the primary authority for quarantine and isolation exists at the state level as an exercise of the state’s police power in accordance with its particular laws and policies.

However, the CDC is also authorized to take measures “to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the States or possessions, or from one State or possession into any other State or possession.” In order to do so, the implementing regulations “authorize the detention, isolation, quarantine, or conditional release of individuals.” This authority is limited to diseases identified by an Executive Order of the President, a list which currently includes Ebola. Whether an isolation or quarantine order originates with the federal or state government, such orders will presumably be subject to habeas corpus challenges, and must also comport with the Due Process Clause of the Constitution.

View the original CRS Legal Sidebar here (pdf) includes active links.

And that legal challenge may soon be upon us. On October 26, Kaci Hickox, a nurse placed under mandatory quarantine in New Jersey, went on CNN on Sunday and criticized the “knee-jerk reaction by politicians” to Ebola.  According to CNN, Hickox, an epidemiologist who was working to help treat Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, has tested negative twice for Ebola and does not have symptoms.  Norman Siegel, Hickox’s attorney, and a former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union told CNN that he will be filing papers in court for Hickox to have a hearing no later than five days from the start of her confinement. Siegel told CNN that Hickox’s quarantine is based on fear.

Here is the link to the Executive Order 13295 of April 4, 2003 cited above by the CRS brief via:

[T]he following communicable diseases are hereby specified pursuant to section 361(b) of the Public Health Service Act:

(a) Cholera; Diphtheria; infectious Tuberculosis; Plague; Smallpox; Yellow Fever; and Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers (Lassa, Marburg, Ebola, Crimean-Congo, South American, and others not yet isolated or named).

July 31, 2014 Update

“(b) Severe acute respiratory syndromes, which are diseases that are associated with fever and signs and symptoms of pneumonia or other respiratory illness, are capable of being transmitted from person to person, and that either are causing, or have the potential to cause, a pandemic, or, upon infection, are highly likely to cause mortality or serious morbidity if not properly controlled. This subsection does not apply to influenza.”

A side note, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power is currently traveling to the countries in West Africa hardest hit with the ebola outbreak:

 

 

Now, since Ambassador Power is not a medical worker, she probably will not be subjected to the NJ/NY mandatory quarantine when she gets back. However, on October 22, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that public health authorities will begin active post-arrival monitoring of travelers whose travel originates in Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea.  Active post-arrival monitoring, according to the CDC  means that travelers without febrile illness or symptoms consistent with Ebola will be followed up daily by state and local health departments for 21 days from the date of their departure from West Africa. Except that Ambassador Power’s return trip will not be originating from West Africa but from Belgium, the last stop on this West Africa-Europe trip before returning to the U.S.

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Burn Bag: CG Sighting! CG Sighting! Near Window #36, the Consular Section, Now!

Via Burn Bag

“The CG [consul general] of our very large consular section was recently on leave for several weeks, not that anybody noticed.  She interacts with her staff so rarely that we’ve begun to make jokes about “CG sightings” in the consular section (Note:  she’s up to six after a year here).  Apparently, however, this was simply too much interaction and she has convinced CA [Consular Affairs] to create a Deputy CG position.  Huh?”

via reactiongifs.com

via reactiongifs.com

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Man without a Country? Expatriation of a U.S. Citizen (Via CRS)

– Domani Spero

 

Some Members of Congress have advocated and sponsored bills for expatriation, one way of losing citizenship, as a method of dealing with U.S. citizens fighting abroad for foreign terrorist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). In early September S.2779 was introduced in Congress to amend section 349 of the Immigration and NationalityAct to deem specified activities in support of terrorism as renunciation of U.S. nationality.

Below via the CRS:

The current law enumerates seven actions that may result in the expatriation of a U.S. citizen, regardless of whether that person is a citizen by birth or naturalization. These acts demonstrate an allegiance to another nation which may be incompatible with allegiance to the U.S. The most relevant acts for the pending bills include: (1) taking an oath of allegiance to a foreign state or one of its political subdivisions; (2) serving in the armed forces of a hostile foreign state or serving as a commissioned or non-commissioned officer in the armed forces of any foreign state; and (3) serving in any office, post or employment under a foreign state’s government after turning 18 years old, if one is also either a dual national of that state or is required to swear or declare allegiance to that state for the position. For these particular acts, a citizen cannot be expatriated while he is in the U.S. or its possessions. However, acts committed in the U.S. or its possessions can be grounds for expatriation once the citizen leaves the U.S. and resides outside of it and its possessions. Also, a citizen who asserts his claim to U.S. citizenship within six months of becoming 18 years old cannot be expatriated because of serving in the armed forces of a foreign state or making a formal renunciation abroad before a U.S. diplomatic or consular official before the age of 18 years.
[…]

None of the acts listed above result in expatriation unless committed voluntarily and with the intent to relinquish citizenship. These requirements are derived from U.S Supreme Court interpretation of the constitutional requirements for expatriation. In Afroyim v. Rusk, the Court found that the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prevents Congress from legislating the automatic loss of citizenship acquired by naturalization or birth in the U.S. merely because of specified conduct, without the citizen’s assent. Then, in Vance v. Terrazas, the Court elaborated on its earlier Afroyim decision by holding that the U.S. Government must prove specific intent to renounce citizenship. The current expatriation statute requires that the burden of proof is on the party claiming that expatriation occurred, i.e., the U.S. Government, to establish the claim by a preponderance of the evidence. Any act of expatriation will be presumed to have been done voluntarily, but the presumption may be rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence that the act was not done voluntarily. In Terrazas, the Court upheld these statutory evidentiary standards as constitutional, but in light of Afroyim and the Fourteenth Amendment, it held that no presumption of intent arises from an expatriating act. The Court also indicated that a finding of intent does not require a written, express relinquishment of citizenship, but could be inferred from conduct that was completely inconsistent with and derogatory to allegiance to the U.S. and could be established by a preponderance of the evidence.
[…]
Congress does not have unlimited authority to prescribe acts as potentially expatriating. Certain actions, formerly included in the list of expatriating acts under the current statute or its precursor, were found unconstitutional for various reasons by the U.S. Supreme Court and subsequently repealed. These include desertion from the armed forces in wartime, draft evasion during wartime or a national emergency, and voting in a foreign election. Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Fifth Amendment bars lawfully naturalized citizens from losing citizenship for acts that do not apply to native-born citizens.

Read in full here (pdf).

Also, former FSO Peter Van Buren has a piece related to this at Firedoglake/The Dissenter:  Can the US Seize Would-Be Jihadis’ Passports? that would go well with the CRS material.

 

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Filed under Americans Abroad, Congress, Consular Work, Govt Reports/Documents, Regulations, State Department, War

Burn Bag: Ladies and Gentlemen – the New Consular Bidder Assessment Tool

Via Burn Bag:

“Well, the results of the new Consular Bidder Assessment Tool are out. Based on the median scores, every bidder is in the top 20% of all bidders according to the rankings assigned by his peers. How much did we pay a contractor to come up with something just as useless as the 360?”

via reactiongifs.com

via reactiongifs.com

♥ ♠ ♥

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Snapshot: Total Adoptions (1999 – 2013) – 249,694 Children

– Domani Spero

 

Via travel.state.gov:

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 10.04.58 AM

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 10.04.14 AM

 

 

 

 

 

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U.S. Embassy Hanoi Starts Vietnam Adoption Processing Through the Special Adoption Program

– Domani Spero

 

Last month, the the United States started processing the  Hague Convention adoptions from Vietnam through the Special Adoption Program. Two U.S. adoption service providers – Dillon International and Holt International Children’s Services, were selected and granted by the Government of Vietnam licenses to operate intercountry adoption program for children with special needs, children aged five and older, and children in biological sibling groups (Special Adoption Program).  According to Embassy Hanoi, the ceremony held on September 16, 2014 also marks the effective date for the United States to start processing Hague Convention adoptions from Vietnam through the Special Adoption Program. Below is an excerpt from the announcement:

Inter-country adoption between the United States and Vietnam has been inactive since 2008. Since that time, Vietnam has strengthened its commitment to reforming its adoption system. The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Convention) entered into force for Vietnam on February 1, 2012. The Government of Vietnam has taken a number of steps to improve its implementation of the Convention, particularly in adoptions of children with special needs and for older children and biological sibling groups. A new adoption law, implementing decree, and related circulars have been passed and are being implemented. The United States welcomes Vietnam’s efforts to enhance its child welfare and intercountry adoption system and has now determined that, through the Special Adoption Program, it will be able to process Convention adoptions from Vietnam. However, the United States will not process Convention adoptions from Vietnam that fall outside the parameters of the Special Adoption Program. We will continue to monitor the Vietnamese child welfare program to determine if the intercountry adoption program can be expanded.

Below is Tiffany Murphy, the Chief of the Consular Section of the U.S Embassy in Hanoi announcing the content of the adoption program between the two countries. Via Vietnam International Television VTV4

Click here for the adoption information from DHS/USCIS.

 

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