According to reports, the Trump administration plans to close

international U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

offices by the end of 2019. USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna told

senior staff that the agency's International Operations

Division, which operates in more than 20 countries, will be closed

down. The duties of those offices will be transferred to U.S.

embassies and consulates and to domestic U.S. offices and the

Department of State (DOS), if DOS agrees. USCIS personnel staffing

those offices will return to the United States.

DOS said if it reaches such an interagency agreement, “we

anticipate a smooth transition and continued efficient processing

of USCIS-related work at all of our missions overseas.” DOS

has more than 200 posts worldwide.

Director Cissna said in an email to staff that the closures will

“better leverage our funds to address backlogs in the United

States while also leveraging existing [DOS] resources at

post.” He noted that change “can be difficult and can

cause consternation. I want to assure you we will work to make this

as smooth a transition as possible for each of our USCIS staff

while also ensuring that those utilizing our services may continue

to do so and our agency operations continue undisrupted.

In addition to helping people apply for immigration benefits,

these offices provide assistance in such tasks as helping U.S.

citizens and lawful permanent residents, including military

personnel abroad, bring family members to the United States or help

them apply for U.S. citizenship; international adoptions; refugee

resettlement; and immigration fraud investigations.

According to the International Operations (IO) Division's

website, the division's work includes reuniting families,

enabling adoptive children to come to join permanent families in

the United States, considering parole requests from individuals

outside the United States for urgent humanitarian reasons or

significant public benefit, and providing information services and

travel documents to people around the world, including those with

unique needs and circumstances. “Operating in a dynamic global

environment with constantly changing political, cultural,

environmental, and socio-economic contexts, IO has approximately

240 employees located in the U.S. and in three international

districts composed of 24 field offices in 21 countries. Our

employees are highly diverse and include foreign nationals in

addition to U.S. citizens; foreign nationals make up more than half

of the IO staff working abroad and approximately one-third of all

IO employees.”

Immigration advocates expressed concerns about further

discouraging immigrants and disengaging the United States from the

rest of the world. Barbara Strack, former chief of USCIS'

Refugee Affairs Division, said the closures would “throw [the

legal immigration system] into chaos around the world.” She

warned that the move would “smack all government employees

abroad, including folks in the military, who have a foreign spouse

or kids they are trying to bring to the U.S. legally.”

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