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Reuters is reporting that a study by Insigniam Holding LLC, commissioned by the US State Department under Rex Tillerson, has recommended transferring responsibility for issuance of U.S. visas, passports and other travel documents to the Department of Homeland Security from the State Department’s embassies and Consular posts abroad.
The report also recommends extending personnel posting abroad by a year and ensuring overlap between new and departing State Department employees to ease skills transfer.
The release of the report, of course, is a long way from actual changes being made.
One big question, were this report to be implemented, would be which branch of DHS would take over responsibility for visa issuance and travel documentation. While US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which grants most immigration benefits, would arguably make the most sense, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE” which handles interior enforcement, including arrest and prosecution of the undocumented) and Border and Customs Enforcement (“BCE” which staffs ports of entry such as international airports and border crossings) also handle immigration matters.
While all of the agencies involved have at times displayed tendencies towards legal interpretations unfavorable to immigrants, USCIS has in my experience proven the most reasonable and the best trained on the law overall.
One potentially enormous benefit should these recommendations be implemented: elimination of the “doctrine of consular unreviewability” – the fact that consulates have essentially unlimited discretion and that their decisions cannot be reviewed in the courts. This lack of accountability has been the source of many profoundly unjust decisions, and bringing responsibility back to a US-based agency could lead to greater accountability and fewer irrational denials.