By Nicole Acevedo, Carmen Sesin and Reuters
Foreigners and lawyers like Nada Sater are worried that the Trump administration "creates a major disaster" if it comes with plans to permanently close nearly two dozen US fund offices worldwide.
"This will affect refugees, military soldiers applying for citizenship, the family reunification program," said Sater, an immigration lawyer in Miami, NBC News.
The immigration agency said on Tuesday that it was in "preliminary discussions" to move its international office burden to offices in the United States, the agency spokesman Jessica Collins said in a statement.
Agency officials claim closing international field offices will save millions of dollars every year.
"They look at the bottom line dollars, but the bottom line dollars will end up catching up to them," said Sater.
Enrique Gutierrez and John Santos, media director of the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement that "the administration's explanation that the move is an attempt to reduce public spending does not cease as USCIS's funding comes primarily from fees paid by people who use their services ”.
Citizenship and Immigration Service, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, currently operates 23 international offices in Latin America, Europe and Asia.
These offices typically handle family visa requests, international adoptions and other tasks, such as To help US citizens wishing to bring noncitizen relatives to the United States, treat refugee programs and enable foreign citizenship applications, according to the Agency's website.
The international offices can also deal with naturalizations of US military members who are not already US citizens. USCIS officers abroad also look for fraud in visa applications and provide technical immigration advice to other officials.
The agency plans to move these services to the agency's offices based in the US and US consulates and embassies abroad.
"In my opinion, this will create more backlogs, in an already backward system," said Sater. "If any of the work is given to the field offices in the US, it will create a backlog for people waiting for some kind of USCIS approval."
There has been a 91 percent increase in the overall average time taken to deal with an immigration case since the 2014 financial year, analyzes by the American Immigration Lawyers Association show.
Over the past year, the backlog has more than doubled. It went from about 1 million delayed assessments to the current backlog of approx. 2.3 million.
International field offices are expected to close in the next year, officials said.
"They are making an overall effort to break down the country's capacity to treat refugees and immigrants legally" said mark hetfield president for HIAS, a US refugee help nonprofit organization. "It's not in line with what President Trump said in the Union's state, which is that he wants immigrants to come here, that he wants them to come here legally."
Trump administration has been working to limit both legal and illegal immigration, including cuts to the US refugee program and increased vetting of US visa applications.