The Trump administration will reportedly shutter all 21 international offices operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in a move intended to consolidate services from the Department of Homeland Security.
The Washington Post reported that the decision was announced by USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna in an email to agency staffers on Tuesday, which stated that the services provided by the 21 offices would be consolidated into U.S. embassies and stateside offices.
“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,” Cissna wrote, according to the Post.
“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," he added.
A senior official at the Department of Homeland Security told the Post that the move was being implemented as a cost-cutting measure that would shift the offices' responsibilities to existing agency staffers. About 70 staffers in the offices would be reassigned as part of the decision, according to the Post.
A spokeswoman for USCIS told The Hill in an emailed statement that the agency would work to ensure "no interruption" of services.
“As we have internally shared, USCIS is in preliminary discussions to consider shifting its international USCIS office workloads to USCIS domestic offices in the United States and, where practicable, to U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. The goal of any such shift would be to maximize USCIS resources that could then be reallocated, in part, to backlog reduction efforts," wrote Jessica Collins.
"For such a decision, USCIS will work closely with the Department of Homeland Security and with the Department of State to coordinate necessary interagency agreements to ensure no interruption in the provision of immigration services to affected applicants and petitioners.”
Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalSunday shows preview: Pelosi announces date for infrastructure vote; administration defends immigration policies On The Money — House pushes toward infrastructure vote Biden's baffling decisions leave allies wondering where they stand MORE (D-Wash.), a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who cut her teeth in politics as an immigration activist, reacted to the news by saying "it sounds like a really dumb idea."
Jayapal added that she hadn't yet seen the proposal, but said any cut to consular visa services could have serious consequences.
"We have serious consular needs around the world," she said. "As someone who came to this country on a visa for 17 years, I know what that's like to stand in a visa line."
"People around the world depend on these services," added Jayapal.
— Updated at 2:25 p.m.