As the White House braces for a potentially embarrassing rebuke from the Senate over President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration to build a wall, the administration is preparing a new assault on legal immigration—something Trump claimed to support “in the largest numbers ever” during his recent State of the Union address.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency is preparing to close down its 21 overseas offices, and shut down its international division entirely, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday. The move was announced by USCIS director Francis Cissna in an email to staffers.
“The goal of any such shift would be to maximize U.S.C.I.S. resources that could then be reallocated, in part, to backlog reduction efforts,” a UCIS spokesperson told the New York Times. The move has yet to be fully approved by the State Department, according to the Post.
The USCIS typically handles everything from work visa and asylum requests, to citizenship applications. According to Cissna, closing the international division offices is to “better leverage our funds to address backlogs in the United States.” However, USCIS staffers explained to the Times, shuttering the offices could impede efforts from people applying to immigrate while abroad, and make it more difficult for people already in the U.S. to bring over family members.
Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, herself an immigrant to the U.S., responded to reports of the closures by telling The Hill that “it sounds like a really dumb idea.”
News of the impending closures come just days after Trump released his 2020 budget proposal, which included a “immigration services surcharge” that would add an estimated 10 percent to immigration form filing fees—something the Trump administration claimed would be put toward “deficit reduction” despite the fact that the budget proposed also predicts the U.S. deficit will swell to a massive $31 trillion over the coming decade.
In early 2018, the USCIS made headlines for altering its mission statement, originally drafted in 2005, by dropping the phrase “nation of immigrants.” IN response to the new language, Cissna’s predecessor León Rodríguez said the change marked “a particularly sad turn of history.”