The Impact of U.S. Control of Foreign Assets on Refugees and Expatriates

The U.S. Treasury Department has the responsibility of administering several emergency-related programs that affect the property of certain countries (and usually the nationals thereof) designated by its regulations, where the property, or the persons dealing with the property, are subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. These so-called “embargo controls” consist of trade sanctions (i.e., an “embargo” in the narrow sense of the term) and prohibitions on transactions involving assets in which the designated country or its nationals have any interest. These prohibitions, known collectively as a “blocking” of assets, have an impact on refugees and expatriates, usually taking one or more of the following forms: (1) blocking of U.S. assets in which such individuals have a direct interest, until they have established residence outside the blocked country; (2) indefinite blocking of U.S. assets of business entities in which they have an interest; (3) blocking of certain U.S. assets in which they would normally assert a right as heirs or legatees; and (4) prohibiting use of blocked assets of their country of origin to satisfy their claims against that country. This article examines U.S. control of foreign assets in light of the consequences for refugees and expatriates.