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U.S. Plans to Close USCIS Field Offices Abroad - Carlos Gamino
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U.S. Plans to Close USCIS Field Offices Abroad

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By Carlos Gamino

In an effort to “save money,” the current U.S. administration is seeking to close nearly two dozen U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field offices across the globe. It’s a controversial move – one that comes with plenty of pushback – but the government estimates that it would save millions of dollars each year.

USCIS spokeswoman Jessica Collins said that the agency is in preliminary discussions about giving its international responsibilities to the State Department or to U.S.-based offices in its own department. She emailed a statement to NPR that says, “The goal of any such shift would be to maximize USCIS resources that could then be reallocated, in part, to backlog reduction.”

These field offices currently work on refugee applications, foreign adoptions and family reunification visas. They also handle humanitarian applications and process naturalization documents for foreign-national spouses of U.S. military service members.

Critics of the move, which would shutter 23 field offices in 20 countries, say that the plan will make backlogs worse. Additionally, the current administration cut the ceiling on the number of allowable refugees from 45,000 in fiscal year 2018 to 30,000 for 2019 by claiming that there was a huge backlog of outstanding cases – and this move may provide even fewer opportunities for people to apply for humanitarian relief in the U.S. 

"It's yet another step that USCIS has taken that slows the processing of refugee applications and will slow customer service in general," said Sarah Pierce, policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute. Pierce also fears that a further increase in the backlog would fuel calls for even more refugee cap reductions in the future. The current backlog currently contains about 2.3 million refugee and asylum petitions.

The Democratic National Committee’s media directors, Enrique Gutierrez and John Santos, also issued a statement refuting the claim that closures would save money. "The administration's explanation that the move is an effort to cut government spending does not hold up since USCIS's funding comes primarily from fees paid by people who use its services,” they said.

You can check for closed offices here.

What Do You Think?

Do you think we’re throwing away money on USCIS field offices, or do you think this is a ploy to minimize future asylum petitions? I’d love to hear your take, so please join the conversation on  my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed.

Carlos Gamino