USCIS to Shrink Overseas Presence to Seven Locations

 

We almost missed a recent announcement from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) dated August 9 concerning its “international footprint.” It will maintain its presence at seven locations but will close 13 field offices and 13 district offices within the next year.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today plans to maintain operations at its international field offices in Beijing and Guangzhou, China; Nairobi, Kenya; and New Delhi, India. Previously, Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli directed the agency to continue operating in Guatemala City, Guatemala; Mexico City, Mexico; and San Salvador, El Salvador, as part of a whole-of-government approach to address the crisis at the southern border.

While retaining these seven international offices, USCIS plans to close the remaining thirteen international field offices and three district offices between now and August 2020. The first planned closures are the field offices in Monterrey, Mexico, and Seoul, South Korea, at the end of September. These organizational changes will allow more effective allocation of USCIS resources to support, in part, backlog reduction efforts.

“This cost-effective and high value international footprint allows USCIS to efficiently adjudicate complex immigration petitions that require in-person interviews, to enhance integrity through fraud detection and national security activities, and to liaise with U.S. and foreign government entities to improve migration management capacity,” said Cuccinelli. “In the months ahead, USCIS will close its other international offices on a staggered schedule, ensuring a smooth transition of workloads to USCIS domestic offices and State Department consular sections, while mitigating impacts on USCIS staff who will rotate back to domestic positions.”

Many functions currently performed at international offices will be handled domestically or by USCIS domestic staff on temporary assignments abroad. As part of this shift, the Department of State (DOS) will assume responsibility for certain in-person services that USCIS currently provides at international field offices. In addition to issuing visas to foreign nationals who are abroad, DOS already performs many of these service functions where USCIS does not have an office. USCIS is working closely with DOS to minimize interruptions in immigration services to affected applicants and petitioners.

As of this writing, travel.state.gov’s newsroom remains pretty sparse with news.

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Trump Threat: Cutoff Aid to Central America’s Northern Triangle

In October 2018, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) notes the following about the “northern triangle”:

“Instability in Central America is one of the most pressing
challenges for U.S. policy in the Western Hemisphere.
Several nations—particularly El Salvador, Guatemala, and
Honduras in the “northern triangle” of Central America—
are struggling with widespread insecurity, fragile political
and judicial systems, and high levels of poverty and
unemployment.
[…]
On October 22, 2018, President Trump said he intends to
cut off, or substantially reduce, aid to the northern triangle
countries. He has significant discretion to do so with funds
appropriated in FY2018, since Congress designated “up to”
$615 million for the Central America strategy, effectively
placing a ceiling on aid but no floor. The Consolidated
Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141), also empowers
the Secretary of State to suspend and reprogram some aid if
he determines the northern triangle governments have made
“insufficient progress” in addressing various legislative
conditions.
[…]
Congress has placed strict conditions on assistance to the
northern triangle in an attempt to bolster political will in the
region and ensure foreign aid is used as effectively as
possible. According to the Consolidated Appropriations
Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141),

 25% of assistance for the central governments of El
Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras must be withheld
until the Secretary of State certifies that the
governments are informing their citizens of the dangers
of irregular migration, combating human smuggling and
trafficking, improving border security, and cooperating
with the United States to receive and reintegrate
repatriated citizens who do not qualify for asylum.

 Another 50% must be withheld until the Secretary of
State certifies that the governments are addressing 12
other concerns, including combating corruption;
countering gangs and organized crime; increasing
government revenues; supporting programs to reduce
poverty and promote equitable growth; and protecting
the rights of journalists, political opposition parties, and
human rights defenders to operate without interference.

The State Department certified that all three countries met
both sets of conditions in FY2016 and FY2017. For
FY2018, it has issued certifications for all three countries
regarding the first set of conditions but not the second set.

Read more: U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America: An Overview, October 2018 (PDF)

CRS R44812: U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America: Policy Issues for Congress 2017 (PDF)

USUN Ambassador Haley Hosts Reception For “Friends” With US Against UN Jerusalem Resolution

Posted: 3:11  am ET

 

The eight countries who voted with the United States include Guatemala and Honduras, countries with significant interest in migration policies and have large number of nationals on DACA status. Guatemala has already announced that it will follow the United States in moving its embassy to Jerusalem. We’re watching how soon Honduras will follow this move. Last November, DHS extended the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Honduras until July 5, 2018. We’ll have to see what happens next; state actions are in the country’s national interest, intentional, and never coincidental.

USUN Ambassador Niki Haley’s shit list includes the top recipients of American foreign aid for years like Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and a host of other countries. How this will end? (see Snapshot: @StateDept Aid Allocation by Region and Top Recipients, FY2016 RequestSnapshot: Top 10 Recipients of US Foreign Aid in FY2012 and FY2013 RequestSnapshot: Top 10 Recipients of US Foreign Aid in FY2010, FY 2011 RQSnapshot: Top 10 Recipients of US Foreign Aid).

On January 4, the United States announced that it is suspending at least $900 million in security assistance to Pakistan according to Reuters “until it takes action against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network militant groups.”

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Round-Up: Presentations of Credentials

Posted: 12:46 am ET
Follow @Diplopundit

 

People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria

Canada

Republic of Costa Rica

Republic of Guatemala

Republic of Peru

Continue reading

July 19 SFRC Hearing: Luis Arreaga to be U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala

Posted: 1:48 am ET
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Today, the SFRC is holding a confirmation hearing on the nomination of career diplomat Luis Arreaga to be the U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala. Ambassador Arreaga previously served as chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Iceland.

Date: Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Time: 02:00 PM
Location: SD-419
Presiding: Senator Rubio

The live video and the prepared testimony will be posted here when available.

Below is the report submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

SUBJECT:  Ambassadorial Nomination:  Certificate of Demonstrated Competence — Foreign Service Act, Section 304(a)(4)

POST: Republic of Guatemala

CANDIDATE:  Luis E. Arreaga

Luis E. Arreaga, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, is currently Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Department of State, a position he has held since 2016.  A former Ambassador, Deputy Chief of Mission, Consul General and Office Director, Mr. Arreaga possesses cultural and linguistic fluency in the region as well as extensive leadership and interagency management expertise.   He has led the development of civilian security assistance programs in Mexico, Central America, and Colombia as well as the largest increase in recruitment, assessment, and hiring in the State Department’s history.  He advocated for a $1 billion sale of Boeing aircraft to Icelandair and led a team of 18 agencies that helped conclude a Free Trade Agreement and oversaw a large expansion of U.S. military support to Panama.

Previously, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Department of State (2013-2016), Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Reykjavik, Iceland (2010-2013), Director, Office of Recruitment, Examination, and Employment, Bureau of Human Resources, Department of State (2008-2010), Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Panama City, Panama (2005-2008), U.S. Consul General in Vancouver, Canada (2002-2005), and Director, Executive Secretariat Staff, Department of State (2001-2002).  He has also served as Deputy Director of the State Department’s Operations Center and as Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs.  Other overseas postings include the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, the U.S. Embassy in Spain, and Agency for International Development Missions in Peru, El Salvador and Honduras.

Mr. Arreaga is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee where he received a Ph.D., M.S. and B.A.  He is the recipient of eleven notable senior State Department awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Alumni Association.  A heritage speaker of Spanish, he is also fluent in French and speaks basic Icelandic.

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Trump Nominates Career Diplomat Luis E. Arreaga to be U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala

Posted: 1:59 am ET
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Last week, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Luis E. Arreaga, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Guatemala. The nomination was received in the Senate on June 29 and referred to the SFRC (see PN721).

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Snapshot: U.S. Deportations to Top Receiving Countries: FY2013-FY2015

Posted: 12:03 am ET
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Extracted from CRS RL34112 | August 2016 — via Secrecy News

Via CRS

Via CRS

 

 

Nine Latin American Countries Request Review of U.S. “Wet Foot/Dry Foot” Policy For Cuban Migrants

Posted: 3:14 am ET
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WaPo has a quick explainer on the “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy,  the informal name given to a 1995 agreement under which Cuban migrants seeking passage to the United States who are intercepted at sea (“wet feet”) are sent back to Cuba or to a third country, while those who make it to U.S. soil (“dry feet”) are allowed to remain in the United States. The policy, formally known as the U.S.-Cuba Immigration Accord, has been written into law as an amendment to the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act. Read more here. Last year, the Miami Herald reported that in FY2015 (Oct. 1, 2014, and Sept. 30, 2015), the U.S. Coast Guard stopped 4,462 Cubans who attempted to illegally enter the United States by sea.  In FY2014 (before normalization) , 2,059 Cubans were apparently caught at sea, according to WaPo citing Coast Guard data. The traffic has more than doubled probably due to fears that with normalization, the policy will soon end.  An ongoing petition to Congress to End Wet foot, Dry Foot Policy currently has 1,682 letters sent to-date.  

Yesterday, the Ecuadoran Embassy in Washington, D.C. delivered a letter signed by nine Latin American countries “expressing their deep concern about the negative effects of U.S. immigration policy across the region.”  The letter sent to Secretary John Kerry was signed by Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru.  The joint letter also ends with the Foreign Ministers calling on Secretary Kerry to attend a High Level meeting to review this issue.

Below is from the Ecuadoran Embassy’s statement online:

The 1966 U.S. Public Law 89-732, known as the “Cuban Adjustment Act”, and the policy commonly known as “wet foot, dry foot” have encouraged a disorderly, irregular and unsafe flow of Cubans who, risking their lives, pass through our countries in order to reach the US.” 

They add that this is creating a serious humanitarian crisis for Cuban citizens, with the nine Foreign ministers stating that:

“Cuban citizens risk their lives, on a daily basis, seeking to reach the United States. These people, often facing situations of extreme vulnerability, fall victim to mafias dedicated to people trafficking, sexual exploitation and collective assaults. This situation has generated a migratory crisis that is affecting our countries.”

The signatories believe that to reduce the threats faced by Cuban migrants, it is necessary to address “the main cause of the current situation”. Revising the Cuban Adjustment Act and the ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy “would be a first step to stop the worsening of this complex situation and would form part of a final agreement to ensure orderly and regular migration in our region.”

Addressing the initiative, the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister, Guillaume Long, said:

“The fact that nine foreign ministers have signed this letter shows the strength of feeling in Latin America about how US policy is creating an immigration crisis in our region.

Encouraged by the US “wet foot, dry foot” policy, Cuban migrants often become victims of trafficking, sexual exploitation and violence. It is time for the United States to change its outdated policy for Cuban migrants, which is undermining regular and safe migration in our continent.

This policy is also discriminatory. Ecuadorian migrants often have to live for decades with the threat of deportation, whereas Cuban citizens arriving in the US have the opportunity of residency after living there for a year and after five-years of residency they can apply for obtain citizenship. 

This injustice must end for everyone’s benefit.”

The State Department’s spokesperson was asked about this in Tuesday’s Daily Press Briefing, and here is the unexciting response:

QUESTION: Cuba. Nine Latin American countries have sent a letter to the Administration saying that U.S. policy, its wet foot/dry foot policy which guarantees citizenship to Cubans who make it to U.S. soil, is creating an immigration crisis for those countries through which they pass, and asked the Administration to review that policy. Do you have a response to that, and is there any review likely to be made?

MR KIRBY: Well, I’ll tell you a couple things. So we did receive the letter that you’re referring to signed by nine foreign ministers from Latin America about what is known as the Cuban Adjustment Act. Obviously, we are concerned for the safety of all migrants throughout the region, including migrants seeking to journey northward through South and Central America and Mexico. Irregular migration often involves dangerous journeys that illustrate the inherent risks and uncertainties of involvement with organized crime, including human smugglers and trafficklers – traffickers, excuse me, in attempts to reach the United States.

We continue to encourage all countries to respect the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers, and to ensure that they are treated humanely. And we’re going to continue to, obviously, engage governments in the region on this issue going forward. So we did receive the letter. I’d refer you to the authors of the letter for any more specific information on its content. I have no meetings to announce at this time, and the Cuban Adjustment Act remains in place and wet foot/dry foot remains U.S. policy regarding Cuban migration.

 

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CDC Issues Zika Virus Guidance For 14 Countries and Territories in the Western Hemisphere

Posted: 12:58 am EDT
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The Centers for Disease Control on January 15 issued an interim travel guidance related to Zika virus for 14 countries and territories in Central and South America and the Caribbean. Out of an abundance of caution, the CDC is advising pregnant women to consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.  We have not seen any guidance from the State Department. If you are in the Foreign Service, pregnant, and assigned to these 13 countries in the Western Hemisphere, please contact State/MED for guidance.

Zika was reported for the first time in Brazil in May 2015, and the virus has since been reported in 14 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean:  Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.  For a list of countries that have past and current evidence of the virus, please click here.

Map from cdc.gov

Map from cdc.gov

Below is an excerpt from the CDC announcement:

CDC has issued a travel alert (Level 2-Practice Enhanced Precautions) for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

This alert follows reports in Brazil of microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. However, additional studies are needed to further characterize this relationship. More studies are planned to learn more about the risks of Zika virus infection during pregnancy.

Until more is known, and out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant:

  • Pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who must travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or other healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.
  • Women trying to become pregnant should consult with their healthcare provider before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.

Because specific areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing are difficult to determine and likely to change over time, CDC will update this travel notice as information becomes available. Check the CDC travel website frequently for the most up-to-date recommendations.

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika. Four in five people who acquire Zika infection may have no symptoms. Illness from Zika is usually mild and does not require hospitalization. Travelers are strongly urged to protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or IR3535. Always use as directed.
    • Insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, and IR3535 are safe for pregnant and nursing women and children older than 2 months when used according to the product label. Oil of lemon eucalyptus products should not be used on children under 3 years of age.
  • Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents).
  • Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms.

Read the full announcement here.

CDC is reportedly working with public health experts across the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take additional steps related to Zika.  In addition, efforts are also underway across HHS to develop vaccines, improved diagnostics and other countermeasures for Zika according to CDC.

 

Related items:

 

 

 

Snapshot: Unaccompanied Children By Country of Citizenship (FY2009-2014)

Posted: 12:25 am EDT
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Via GAO

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the number of UAC from any country apprehended at the U.S. border climbed from nearly 28,000 in fiscal year 2012 to more than 42,000 in fiscal year 2013, and to more than 73,000 in fiscal year 2014. Prior to fiscal year 2012, most UAC apprehended at the border were Mexican nationals.5 However, as figure 1 shows, starting in fiscal year 2013, the total number of UAC from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras surpassed the number of UAC from Mexico and, in fiscal year 2014, far surpassed the number of UAC from Mexico.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27

Recent data and research indicate that, while fewer UAC are being apprehended in the United States in 2015, the pace of migration from Central America remains high. According to DHS, as of August 2015, apprehensions at the southwest border are down 46 percent compared with last year—with more than 35,000 UAC apprehended in fiscal year 2015 compared with about 66,000 through the same time period in fiscal year 2014. However, analyses of DHS data indicate that apprehensions in the month of August 2015 increased compared to previous months this year and exceeded by nearly 50 percent August 2014 apprehensions. Moreover, research by two nongovernmental organizations indicates that a greater number of Central Americans this year are being apprehended in Mexico. According to the Migration Policy Institute,6 Mexico has increased its enforcement capacity and is apprehending a greater number of Central American migrants, including children.

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In fiscal year 2014, USAID, State, DHS, and IAF allocated a combined $44.5 million for El Salvador, $88.1 million for Guatemala, and $78 million for Honduras. In addition, MCC signed a threshold program agreement with Honduras in fiscal year 2013 totaling $15.6 million, a compact agreement with El Salvador in fiscal year 2014 totaling $277 million, and a threshold program agreement with Guatemala in fiscal year 2015 totaling $28 million.

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