US Announces Travel Restrictions For Eight African Countries Over New COVID Variant

 

On November 26, President Biden issued a Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease 2019. The proclamation is effective at 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on Monday, November 29, 2021. This proclamation notes that this does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on November 29, 2021.
The entry restrictions cover travelers (with certain exceptions) who were physically present within the Republic of Botswana, the Kingdom of Eswatini, the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Republic of Malawi, the Republic of Mozambique, the Republic of Namibia, the Republic of South Africa, and the Republic of Zimbabwe during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.
Excerpt:

The national emergency caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak in the United States continues to pose a grave threat to our health and security. As of November 26, 2021, the United States has experienced more than 47 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 773,000 COVID-19 deaths. It is the policy of my Administration to implement science-based public health measures, across all areas of the Federal Government, to act swiftly and aggressively to prevent further spread of the disease.

On November 24, 2021, the Republic of South Africa informed the World Health Organization (WHO) of a new B.1.1.529 (Omicron) variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, that was detected in that country. On November 26, 2021, the WHO Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution announced that B.1.1.529 constitutes a variant of concern. While new information is still emerging, the profile of B.1.1.529 includes multiple mutations across the SARS-CoV-2 genome, some of which are concerning. According to the WHO, preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other variants of concern. Further, the WHO reports that the number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in the Republic of South Africa. Based on these developments, and in light of the extensive cross-border transit and proximity in Southern Africa, the detection of B.1.1.529 cases in some Southern African countries, and the lack of widespread genomic sequencing in Southern Africa, the United States Government, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), within the Department of Health and Human Services, has reexamined its policies on international travel and concluded that further measures are required to protect the public health from travelers entering the United States from the Republic of Botswana, the Kingdom of Eswatini, the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Republic of Malawi, the Republic of Mozambique, the Republic of Namibia, the Republic of South Africa, and the Republic of Zimbabwe. In addition to these travel restrictions, the CDC shall implement other mitigation measures for travelers departing from the countries listed above and destined for the United States, as needed.

Given the recommendation of the CDC, working in close coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, described above, I have determined that it is in the interests of the United States to take action to suspend and restrict the entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of noncitizens of the United States (“noncitizens”) who were physically present within the Republic of Botswana, the Kingdom of Eswatini, the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Republic of Malawi, the Republic of Mozambique, the Republic of Namibia, the Republic of South Africa, and the Republic of Zimbabwe during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including sections 212(f) and 215(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f) and 1185(a), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, hereby find that the unrestricted entry into the United States of persons described in section 1 of this proclamation would, except as provided for in section 2 of this proclamation, be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and that their entry should be subject to certain restrictions, limitations, and exceptions.

Read in full here.

 

Confirmations: Smith (NATO), Hovenier (Kosovo), Kaplan (Singapore) and FS Lists

 

 

2021-11-18 PN736 USNATO | Julianne Smith, of Michigan, to be United States Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.
2021-11-18 PN779 Kosovo | Jeffrey M. Hovenier, of Washington, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Kosovo.
2021-11-19 PN952 Sinapore |  Jonathan Eric Kaplan, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Singapore.
FS LISTS
2021-11-19 PN480-1 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Christopher Alexander, and ending Mark Russell, which 31 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 27, 2021.
2021-11-19 PN725 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Jim Nelson Barnhart, Jr., and ending Teresa L. McGhie, which 3 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on June 22, 2021.

Adoption Agency Manager Pleads Guilty in Uganda and Poland Adoption Procurement Schemes

 

Via USDOJ:
Texas Woman Pleads Guilty to Schemes to Procure Adoptions from Uganda and Poland through Bribery and Fraud

A Texas woman who was a program manager at an Ohio-based international adoption agency pleaded guilty today in the Northern District of Ohio to schemes to procure adoptions of Ugandan and Polish children by bribing Ugandan officials and defrauding U.S. authorities.

According to court documents, Debra Parris, 69, of Lake Dallas, engaged in a scheme with others to bribe Ugandan officials to procure adoptions of Ugandan children by families in the United States. These bribes included payments to (a) probation officers intended to ensure favorable probation reports recommending that a particular child be placed into an orphanage; (b) court registrars to influence the assignment of particular cases to “adoption-friendly” judges; and (c) High Court judges to issue favorable guardianship orders for the adoption agency’s clients. In her plea agreement, Parris also admitted that she continued to direct the adoption agency’s clients to work with her alleged co-conspirator Dorah Mirembe, after knowing that Mirembe caused clients of the adoption agency to provide false information to the U.S. State Department for the purpose of misleading it in its adjudication of visa applications.

According to court documents, in a second scheme, after alleged co-conspirator Margaret Cole, the adoption agency’s Executive Director, learned that clients of the adoption agency determined they could not care for one of the two Polish children they were set to adopt, Parris and her co-conspirator took steps to transfer the Polish child to Parris’s relatives, who were not eligible for intercountry adoption. In her plea agreement, Parris also admitted that after the child was injured and hospitalized, Parris agreed with her co-conspirator to conceal their improper conduct from the U.S. State Department in an attempt to continue profiting from these adoptions.

Parris pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and commit visa fraud in connection with the Uganda scheme, and conspiracy to defraud the United States in connection with the Poland scheme. She is scheduled to be sentenced on March 9, 2022. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Trial against Cole is scheduled to commence on Feb. 7, 2022. Mirembe remains at large.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Brennan for the Northern District of Ohio; and Acting Assistant Director Jay Greenberg of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division made the announcement.

If you believe you are a victim of this offense, please visit https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/victim-witness-program or call (888) 549-3945.

The FBI’s Cleveland Field Office is investigating the case.

Trial Attorneys Jason Manning and Alexander Kramer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Chelsea Rice of the Northern District of Ohio are prosecuting the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs assisted in the investigation.

The Fraud Section has lead responsibility for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and Cole and Mirembe are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

US Embassy Ethiopia Urges U.S. Citizens to Depart Now Using Commercial Air

 

On November 21, the US Embassy in Addis Ababa sent another Security Message alerting U.S. citizens of the availability of commercial flights out of the country and urging their departure from Ethiopia.
“The security situation in Ethiopia continues to deteriorate.  The U.S. Embassy urges U.S citizens in Ethiopia to depart now using commercially available options. Although the Embassy continues to process emergency passports and repatriation loans, and to provide other emergency services, the Embassy is unlikely to be able to assist U.S. citizens in Ethiopia with departure if commercial options become unavailable. Please see information on What the Department of State Can and Can’t Do in a Crisis.
U.S. citizens wishing to depart Ethiopia, currently have multiple options via commercial flights from Bole International Airport. If you have difficulty securing a flight or need assistance to return to the United States, please contact AddisACS@state.gov for guidance. The Embassy can also provide a repatriation loan for U.S. citizens who cannot afford at this time to purchase a commercial ticket to the United States. If you are a U.S. citizen and delaying your departure because your non-U.S. citizen spouse or minor children do not have immigrant visas or U.S. passports, please contact us immediately.  Similarly, if you are a non-U.S. citizen parent of a U.S. citizen minor but do not have a valid U.S. visa or other document valid for entry to the United States, please contact us.”
The Level 4-Do Not Travel Advisory released on November 6 notes that “The Department of State urges U.S citizens in Ethiopia to depart now using commercially available options. The U.S. Embassy is unlikely to be able to assist U.S. citizens in Ethiopia with departure if commercial options become unavailable. Although seats on commercial flights currently remain available, we cannot predict when demand will exceed capacity. Please see information on What the Department of State Can and Can’t Do in a Crisis.”
The Department’s What the Department of State Can and Can’t Do in a Crisis” is helpful to U.S. citizens but does not include information on the almost non-existence assistance available to “green card” holders (legal permanent residents) and potential difficulties related to dual nationals.
If U.S. “green card” holders or U.S. permanent residents are arrested overseas (a potential reality given the reported targeted detentions of individuals), 7 FAM 400 on arrest and detention notes specifically that consular officers “do not have the right to demand consular access and visitation for U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident Aliens (LPRs)” overseas. It adds that LPRs (who are not U.S. citizens) must “turn to the country of their nationality or citizenship to request and receive consular services.”
Also see 7 FAM 416.37 FAM 416.3-1  Dual National Arrestees In The Non-U.S. Country Of Nationality. “It is a generally recognized rule, often regarded as a rule of international law, that when a person who is a dual national is residing in either of the countries of nationality, the person owes paramount allegiance to that country, and that country has the right to assert its claim without interference from the other country.  Thus, in the absence of agreements to the contrary between the United States and the country of second nationality, if a dual national encounters difficulties in the country of the second nationality while residing there, the U.S. government’s representations on that person’s behalf may or may not be accepted.”
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EEOC: Request to Repay a Debt For Overpayment of $103,321 Is Not Reprisal

 

EEOC Appeal No. 2020001986

The issue is whether Complainant established that the Agency discriminated against him in reprisal for prior protected EEO activity when it requested that he repay a debt.

At the time of events giving rise to this complaint, Complainant worked in a temporary position as a Regional Federal Benefits Officer at the Agency’s U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, Mexico. Complainant stated that he served in this position from October 3, 2010, through August 3, 2013. Report of Investigation (ROI) at 62. Complainant returned to the Social Security Administration (SSA), effective August 3, 2013. ROI at 40.

Complainant stated that the Agency continued to pay his full salary from August 3, 2013, through August 3, 2014, which was in addition to his regular salary from the SSA. ROI at 65. On August 20, 2014, the Agency signed the Notification of Personnel Action (“SF-50”) on the Termination of Complainant’s appointment, effective August 3, 2013. ROI at 97.

On October 13, 2015, the Agency informed Complainant that it had completed its review of his account and determined that Complainant was overpaid by a gross amount of $128,894.94, and that Complainant needed to repay a net amount of $103,928.94. ROI at 110-13. On November 1, 2015, Complainant submitted a request for a waiver of the entire debt. ROI at 105-09. On November 6, 2015, the Agency informed Complainant that his request was under review, and that the debt collection was suspended pending the review. ROI at 120.

On March 28, 2019, the Associate Comptroller (AC) issued a decision denying Complainant’s request for a waiver of the debt because he was not eligible for a waiver under 5 U.S.C. § 5584. AC noted that the overpayment was caused by an administrative error, but it did not relieve Complainant of his responsibility to repay the debt. AC determined that the correct amount of the overpayment was $103,321.00. ROI at 145-53. On May 13, 2019, the Agency approved Complainant’s request for an installment payment plan of $1,501.00 per month for 49 months, with a final payment of $1,453.04. ROI at 94-95.

On May 17, 2019, Complainant filed an EEO complaint alleging that the Agency discriminated against him in reprisal for prior protected EEO activity (Case No. HQ-13-0804-SSA)2 when as recently as April 10, 2019, he was requested to repay a debt stemming from his assignment in Mexico.3
[…]
AC stated that a waiver may not be granted if there exists an “indication of fraud, misrepresentation, or lack of good faith on the part of the employee” and that fault was considered to have existed if the employee knew, or should have known, through an exercise of due diligence that an error occurred but failed to take action, under 5 U.S.C. § 5584. AC stated that Complainant indicated that he received every Earnings and Leave statement from August 2013 through August 2014, while no longer working for the Agency. AC stated that an employee is responsible for verifying the accuracy of the Earnings and Leave statements and reporting errors in a timely manner. ROI at 882.
[…]
While Complainant stated that he believed that the payment was possibly a means to allocate remedies for his prior EEO complaint, Complainant did not prevail on his complaint and was not awarded any remedies. As such, we find that Complainant did not establish that the Agency retaliated against him for his prior protected EEO activity when it requested that Complainant repay a debt stemming from his assignment in Mexico.

Based on a thorough review of the record and the contentions on appeal, including those not specifically addressed herein, we AFFIRM the Agency’s final decision finding that Complainant did not establish that the Agency discriminated against him in reprisal for prior protected EEO activity when it requested that he repay a debt.

 

Click to access 2020001986.pdf

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Snapshot: Foreign Service National (FSN) Emergency Relief Fund

 

The Foreign Service National Emergency Relief Fund was created to respond to crises following natural disasters, civil unrest, and targeted attacks or “in the line of duty” incidents affecting locally employed (LE) staff working for the U.S. Government. It is one of almost 90 Gift Fund programs managed by the Office of Emergencies in the Diplomatic and Consular Service (M/EDCS) and is one of the two Gift Fund programs that exist solely to assist employees. Funding for this program is not appropriated and is sustained solely by private contributions. The donations are tax deductible and 100% of all contributions are allocated for disbursement directly to Locally Employed (LE) Staff. Contributions to the Fund can be made by Civil Service, Foreign Service, LE Staff and private sector individuals (via RNET).
Donations can be made via the following:
• Secure on-line electronic donations can be made directly from your bank account or by credit/debit card to http://www.pay.gov.
• Checks may be sent to the Department’s Gift Fund Coordinator’s Office M/EDCS, Rm. 7427-B, 2201 C Street NW, Washington DC 20520. Please make checks payable to the U.S. Department of State, designation for the “FSN Emergency Relief Fund”.
• DOS, LE Staff, and overseas American employees of other federal agencies currently being paid by State can make contributions by payroll deduction. One time or recurring payroll deductions can be made through the Payroll Customer Support Center at PayHelp@state.gov.  LE staff wishing to contribute should contact their management office for currency exchange assistance.  CGFS/EDCS has authorized reverse accommodation exchange for emergency fund contributions.  For additional information, please visit the CGFS/EDCS website.
Read more: 2 FAM 962.14  Gifts to the Foreign Service National Emergency Relief Fund

 

 

Who did @StateDept/BBG pay $9,033,600 for Title VII, Discrimination in Federal Employment?

 

The Treasury Department’s Judgment Fund pays court judgments and compromise settlements of lawsuits against the government. Federal agencies may ask the Bureau of the Fiscal Service to pay from the Judgment Fund for:
  • Most court judgments and Justice Department settlements of actual or imminent litigation against the government
  • Administrative claim awards (settlements by agencies at the administrative level, not involving a lawsuit)
According to Treasury, an agency may only ask for payment from the Judgment Fund if funds are not legally available to pay from the agency’s own appropriations. If another source of funds exists to pay the award, the Judgment Fund cannot be used even if the other source does not have enough money. In that case, the agency with the other source of funds must ask Congress to appropriate more money for that other source.
In most cases, the agency does not have to reimburse the Judgment Fund. However, reimbursement is required when the case comes under either the Contract Disputes Act or the No FEAR Act.
On October 7, 2021, an amount of $9,033,600.00 was sent from the Judgement Fund under Payment ID 062262021. The defendant agency is listed as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG now USAGM) and the State Department. The database does not include the name of the complainant nor the docket number at the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia which is listed as having jurisdiction of this case. It lists the Principal Citation Code as 42-USC-2000e-16 with the Principal Citation Code Description as “Title VII, Discrimination In Federal Employment.”
The Principal Amount is listed as $9,033,600.00.
The database does not indicate if this payment involves a single complainant or multiple ones. Or if a gag order is included as a bonus.
For more information about the Judgement Fund, click here.

Related item:
5 CFR 724 – Implementation of Title II of the Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002-Judgment Fund

 

Related posts:

 

 

Afghanistan Evacuation: A “Management Failure” Ripe For Review. By the GAO, Please

 

Secretary Blinken has reportedly ordered an internal review of the Afghanistan evacuation.  Who has been tasked to do the review? Wait, he did not ask the Deputy Secretary for Management or the Acting Under Secretary for Management to do it, did he?
Or the OIG? The OIG has seen what the State Department overlords can do to the entity and its personnel. While the overlords are not the same, we doubt that folks can shake that nightmare quickly. The State Department still does not have a Senate confirmed Inspector General. After what the previous administration did to the OIG and Steve Linick, you’d think that the Biden Administration would work quickly to fill that position. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Also if this debacle is causing seasoned employees to consider leaving the Service, you’d want to know, right?
We do think that the GAO should conduct this review; after all, part of its mandate is the evaluation of operations and performance. The GAO undertakes work through congressional requests, so let’s go ahead, let’s write to our favorite reps so GAO can get tasked with looking under the rugs.

Related items:

@AsstSecStateAF Molly Phee Visits Sudan, Nov 14-16

 

 

Snapshot: Former FS Spouses’ Statutory Entitlements

 

Via GTM/RNET: Former Spouses’ Statutory Entitlements
Former spouses have a default entitlement to a pro rata marital share of the annuity, survivor annuity and health benefits coverage if the following conditions have been met:
    • Former spouse must have been married to annuitant for at least 10 years of the employee’s creditable service (civilian or military), with 5 of these years occurring while the employee was in  the Foreign Service; and
    • Have been divorced from employee after February 15, 1981, and
    • Have not remarried prior to age 55 or expressly waived spousal benefits under the Foreign Service Act of 1980.
A qualified court order or a valid spousal agreement will take precedence over the above-noted provisions.
Qualified Court Order Or Valid Spousal Agreement
A court order or spousal agreement that alters or waives the statutory entitlement payable under the Foreign Service Act to a former spouse must do so expressly.  To expressly alter or waive a Former Spouse’s statutory entitlement to benefits, the court order spousal or agreement must specifically refer to Foreign Service retirement.  For example, the parties may specify that the relevant language in the court order or agreement pertains to pension, survivor or refunds under the Foreign Service Retirement and Disability System if the annuitant is a FSRDS participant, or under the Foreign Service Pension System if the annuitant is a FSPS participant.
For more information, please contact the Chief Policy Advisor at: HRSC@state.gov.

 

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