US to close global immigration offices

13 Mars, 2019, 06:19 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which operates under the Department of Homeland Security, now operates 23 offices overseas, scattered across Latin America, Europe and Asia, according to the agency's website.

As the Trump administration tries to strengthen immigration controls and move away from family reunification in favor of merit-based immigration, the United States plans to close its 21 immigration offices overseas.

There are concerns closing the worldwide offices will slow the processing of refugee applications and foreign adoptions, among other services.

USCIS spokeswoman Jessica Collins announced on Tuesday the agency is in "preliminary discussions" to delegate its worldwide responsibilities to the State Department, or to its own personnel in the U.S. In some cases, the workload would be absorbed by U.S. embassies and consulates overseas.

But Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute argued the plan will likely exacerbate a processing bottleneck of refugee applications that has led to fewer opportunities for people to seek asylum in the U.S. She noted the Trump administration slashed the ceiling on the number of allowable refugees from 45,000 in fiscal year 2018 to 30,000 in 2019 due to "a massive backlog of outstanding asylum cases".

"I believe by doing so, we will better leverage our funds to address backlogs in the United States while also leveraging existing Department of State resources at post".

USCIS is part of the Department of Homeland Security and is responsible for the US government's handling of immigration benefits, citizenship and, most recently, denaturalization. But mostly, one anonymous official tells the Post, it's a move to save money.

In this December 12, 2017, photo, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director L. Francis Cissna speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington.

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"The goal of any such shift would be to maximize USCIS resources that could then be reallocated, in part to backlog reduction efforts", Collins said.

"As we have internally shared, USCIS is in preliminary discussions to consider shifting its global USCIS office workloads to USCIS domestic offices in the United States and, where practicable, to USA embassies and consulates overseas", agency spokeswoman Jessica Collins said in an e-mail to Reuters.

One of the responsibilities of the overseas offices is to help process refugee applications.

The administration has put in place new barriers for asylum seekers, barred citizens of several Muslim-majority countries from travelling to the United States and pushed new rules that would make it harder for low-income immigrants to become legal permanent American residents. The IO employes 240 people in the USA and overseas.

Cissna, whose mother is a Peruvian immigrant, changed USCIS's mission statement past year so that it eliminates the phrase "nation of immigrants", a move that highlights the Trump administration's continued steps to complicate immigration for people who want to live in the U.S.

Collins says the agency will work closely with the State Department to avoid any interruptions to services overseas.

"Symbolically it is retreating from an global presence", Rodriguez said.

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