President Bush, in one of his final acts of office, signed off on Executive Order 13488 last Friday, Jan. 16, 2009. What this order did was effectively call for the blocking of entry into the United States of certain senior foreign officials from Tier 3 nations, as listed in the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report, who have impeded thier government’s antitrafficking in persons efforts, have failed to implement their government’s antitrafficking in persons laws and policies, or who have failed to take steps necessary to combat trafficking in persons. This order also extends to the spouses of such officials.

The Tier 3 nations include the following: Bolivia, Burma, Cambodia, Cuba, Ecuador, Jamaica, Kuwait, North Korea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Togo, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela. Given the fact a number of these nations are key U.S. strategic partners it would seemingly place a strain on the relationship between the U.S. and those countries to target their senior foreign officials who, while possibly impeding trafficking in persons policies, may also be working with the U.S. on matters vital to our national security interests.

Not to worry though, as is common place in the law, there is a loophole. Section 2 of the Order permits those covered under the Order to be allowed entry into the U.S. if their entry is not contrary to the interest of the United States. So essentially, the Order bans entry into the United States of individuals impeding antitrafficking in persons policies in their country, however, if that entry is not contrary to U.S. interests then they can come in. How convenient.

I actually like the direction President Bush took with this Executive Order. I do believe more pressure needs to be directed against the governments allowing illicit activity to occur within their borders. However, the Executive Order goes about it in a way that is both awkward and ineffective. It will be interesting to see what becomes of this Order with President Obama now in office. Will it be used in any sort of meaningful manner? I don’t see that happening, but then again I could be wrong.

If you feel that you may have violated Executive Order 13488 please contact the author at 202-329-5652 or by email at

The author of this blog is Erich C. Ferrari, an attorney in Washington, DC, who specializes in Sanctions Law and White Collar Criminal Defense. If you have any questions please email him at