Trump Administration Plans to Close USCIS International Operations

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; handle international adoptions; participate in refugee resettlement; and conduct 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.”

More information about IO is at


DHS Secretary Forced Out; Others May Leave in Trump Purge

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen has been forced to resign, according to reports. Officials told media organizations that other departures may follow, including L. Francis Cissna, head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; Kathy Nuebel Kovarik, his deputy; and John Mitnick, USCIS general counsel and a member of Ms. Nielsen’s senior leadership team. The latter departures haven’t happened yet, however, and some reports suggest that they may not.

Meanwhile, President Trump withdrew Ron Vitiello’s nomination for director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). President Trump said he wanted a “tougher direction,” echoing his immigration adviser Stephen Miller. Mr. Vitiello, who had been serving as acting director of ICE, subsequently announced that he was leaving the agency.

Details: Vox report,; CNN video,; NPR report,; NBC News report,


Attorney General’s Decision Removes Asylum Seekers’ Eligibility to Receive Bond Hearings

An April 16th decision from Attorney General William Barr removed the eligibility of individuals with valid protection asylum claims who entered between ports of entry to receive release on bond from an immigration judge. This decision could potentially result in the unnecessary detention of thousands more individuals annually, despite the tremendous financial and human costs.

Barr concluded the only option for these individuals to be released from detention during deportation hearings is parole, determined at the discretion of Department of Homeland Security officers. He also concluded that implementation of this decision should be delayed for a 90-day period in order to allow DHS to conduct operational planning for additional detention space and parole decisions.

For more information, view Attorney General Barr’s decision or The American Immigration Counsel’s press release.


Five Arrested in Chinese Student Visa Scheme

Federal authorities arrested five people linked to a scheme that allegedly helped Chinese nationals obtain student visas by hiring individuals who used fake Chinese passports to take English proficiency tests for the foreign students.

The arrests were made pursuant to a 26-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury. The indictment charges the defendants with conspiring to use false passports, using false passports, and aggravated identity theft as part of the scheme to impersonate Chinese nationals who were required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to obtain a student visa.

A sixth defendant in the case is believed to be currently residing in Taiwan.

When a foreign national goes to a TOEFL testing location, the test-taker must present an original, non-expired, government-issued identification document recognized by their home country. According to the indictment, all six defendants used counterfeit People’s Republic of China passports to impersonate 19 different Chinese nationals at various TOEFL testing locations in and around Los Angeles, California.

The indictment further alleges that one defendant paid for and registered 14 Chinese nationals for TOEFL exams over a one-year period in 2015 and 2016. Following the tests, the defendant allegedly paid three co-defendants approximately $400 per test.

The conspiracy count in the indictment carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. The charge of using a false passport carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. Aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory consecutive two-year sentence.

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Fraud Detection National Security Section. The Educational Testing Service, which administers the TOEFL exam, provided assistance during the investigation.

More details are available at

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Disclaimer: This newsletter is provided as a public service and not intended to establish an attorney client relationship. Any reliance on information contained herein is taken at your own risk.

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