EDITORIAL: Closing doors: Administration shuts offices that aid in legal immigration

President Donald Trump signs the first veto of his presidency in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, March 15, 2019, in Washington. Trump issued the first veto, overruling Congress to protect his emergency declaration for border wall funding. (Evan Vucci | The Associated Press)

Donald Trump has waged a war against illegal immigration since before he was elected president. More recently he has tried to keep out refugees, who come to our borders seeking asylum.

His administration now is making it more difficult for foreign-born people — including those serving in our own military — to enter our country legally, and for U.S. citizens to adopt foreign-born children.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has confirmed reports that it is closing all of its field offices outside the United States, and many within the country as well. Twenty-four offices in 21 countries will be shuttered.

USCIS field offices process requests for the various types of visas to enter the United States, from temporary tourist, work and student permits. They also provide information and applicant services and help schedule interviews for non-asylum applications for residency and citizenship, including fiancée and permanent “green card” residency cards. In addition, they handle U.S. citizens’ adoptions of foreign-born children, and citizenship applications for U.S. service members stationed oversees.

Those services for military personnel also are being discontinued at several U.S. military bases stateside, including Fort Benning, Ga., Fort Jackson, S.C., and Fort Sill, Okla.

According to The Washington Post, the move comes “as the Trump administration is pressing to tighten the nation’s immigration controls and shift from family reunification to merit-based immigration. Department of Homeland Security officials say it is part of an overall effort to streamline U.S. immigration operations.”

However, the cost-cutting argument doesn’t hold water, as USCIS services are funded mostly through the fees people pay to use their services.

The closures seem to contradict President Trump’s repeated insistence that he welcomes legal immigrants, and that the only problem he has is with those who enter our country illegally. It seems logical that if that were the case, his administration would encourage people to use legal avenues to come here by making those avenues more accessible. Closing them altogether is more likely to drive more people to seek clandestine methods of entry.

“Our immigration system should celebrate diversity, not avoid it, and should allow families to stay together,” John S. Yang of Value Our Families, a family immigration advocacy group, said in a release responding to the closures. “We cannot allow Trump’s xenophobic strategy to dictate our immigration laws.”

For the time being, people outside the United States who need the services the USCIS now provides might seek help at U.S. embassies and consulates. Congress members should consider a resolution insisting that the offices remain open.

America has long been a beacon of hope for the oppressed and people seeking a new life. Our success as a country has generally been attributed to the diversity that our immigration policy has enabled. We should not close our doors to the very system that has helped give our country its strength.