Trump Administration Seeks to Close Immigration Offices
April 3, 2019
The Trump administration has announced plans to close its international U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field offices. The move would affect nearly two dozen locations in twenty countries around the world.
According to a statement by a USCIS spokeswoman, the goal is to reallocate part of those resources back to the national agency, which is experiencing a backlog. A cost analysis conducted last year estimates that the closures would save the agency millions of dollars annually.
It should be noted that the USCIS is funded primarily by fees paid by applicants, not by taxpayers in the United States.
The Role of International USCIS Offices
The USCIS offices abroad perform many duties, including assisting with foreign adoptions, processing family reunification visas, refugee applications, and the naturalization documents for members of the military who marry foreign nationals.
Additionally, the overseas offices assist U.S. citizens, deal with parole requests from people outside the United States, and are a vital part of detecting immigration fraud.
According to its website, the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and components of the Department of Homeland Security all receive technical advice on immigration-related matters from the USCIS.
Families Hardest Hit
Family reunification would be a much more difficult and arduous process without international USCIS offices. For decades, immigrants to the U.S. have sought to have their families join them – something Trump rallies against, calling it “chain migration.” Attorneys for refugees are concerned that the closures will cause significant delays and possibly keep families separated for years as they wait to immigrate.
Closing down the international USCIS offices would also mean the separation of military and government families. Until now, overseas U.S. military personnel married to foreign nationals could petition locally for an immigration visa. Now the application will have to be done in the United States, adding to an already tremendous backlog.
Any families who want or need to return to the U.S. will be separated until the visas can be processed. According to the American Immigration Lawyers Association, wait times for processing at Citizenship and Immigration Services is up by 91 percent since fiscal year 2014.
A Hard Line Against Immigration
Critics say the move is yet another example of how the Trump administration is purposely curbing legal immigration by making the system more difficult and chaotic.
Besides trying to ban entry to people coming from Muslim countries, the administration has already changed the rules on who is eligible for asylum, drastically reduced the number of refugees that can be admitted, and tightened qualifications for permanent residency and citizenship. USCIS has even begun stripping people of their U.S. citizenship if it suspects that it was fraudulently obtained.
The current backlog of immigration applications that needs to be processed stands at about 2.3 million – more than double that from last year.
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