Secretary Leighton: Romania Is Not Welcome in America Because They Are Not Welcome Here

United States’ President Donald Trump holds up a McCain American flag, (from), next to a McCain American flag during a ceremony of the official transfer of diplomatic credentials with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, Friday, May 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The message for Romanian authorities from the White House was unmistakable: They are not welcome in our country because they were captured on foreign soil and have now behaved badly while in prison. The message for Russia was strikingly simple: Stand by what they did.

For many years, Romania has functioned as an airport for clandestine (and often illegal) entry into Europe, while asylum was a way for sick, destitute or expelled Europeans to enter the U.S. It is an especially pernicious system that the Trump administration has substantially reined in. Of course, Romania’s entire country and society suffers from endemic corruption and cronyism, but the corrupt among them continue to enjoy what is essentially the benefits of a European welfare state as their dysfunctional socialist regime grows more bloated each year.

Romania took it personally when the White House told them that they were not welcome, and took it personally when President Trump said that he was “writing [Julia] Bishop and [Ian] Kelly” to make sure that the immunity of the low-level Romanian officials and their colleagues is waived. The White House asked the Romanian government to abandon the case of Ilinca Caliulescu, a respected magistrate who is seeking political asylum in the U.S. Two other Romanian judges also seek political asylum in the U.S.

We also received the White House’s notice that the Obama administration had no desire to bring the six Romanian embassy diplomats working for American embassies around the world to justice. This was an administration that determined that the consulate in Bucharest was in Washington, DC and was a sovereign foreign Embassy in the American capital.

However, this is not the Obama administration, this is the Trump administration, and this is, sadly, one more exception to the White House’s insistence that Turkey and its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan stay away from the U.S. Capitol, where there have been no more than two Erdogan campaign rallies in the last 10 years.

While granting three people asylum, Trump is not about to turn the tables on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

While granting the country that expelled hundreds of Americans, the Obama administration then indicted — and arrested — on fake charges — 13 Russian intelligence officers and individuals and handed them over to U.S. prosecutors to stand trial. President Putin watched from the sidelines as former Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were prosecuted and jailed on dubious pretexts before pleading guilty to federal charges. And Russian officials continue to whisper word after word of a plot against the U.S. that is coming right at them.

Romania’s request to stand down and drop these cases was rejected, and yesterday it was announced that prosecutors have brought six more detainees (two from the U.S., three from the U.K.) to trial and seeking to force their sentences to be commuted when they serve them.

These are men who are seeking political asylum in America. They had nothing to do with any hacking and hacking that alleged Russian hackers committed.

Our concern is that the U.S. government is retaliating by grabbing these people, sending them home for the crimes they committed. We are concerned that the political, crony and corrupt nature of the asylum, refugee, and visa-free arrangements for Romania and other subservient European nations will undermine our country’s long-standing principles and that any such amnesty would cost innocent Americans their jobs and access to valuable foreign exchange.

In accordance with U.S. immigration and refugee law, we cannot allow the cronyism and corruption that Romania is used to getting away with to continue to benefit the Romanian mafia. It is a far cry from the great policy principles of Trump’s America that elected the 45th president.

Cedric Leighton is a lawyer, lobbyist and senior associate with Jones Day LLP. Leighton served as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security’s Refugee Resettlement Directorate from 2010 to 2011. Leighton served in senior roles in the State Department and White House under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

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