US Citizenship and Immigration suspends in-person immigration services

CNN’s Jake Tapper and chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta speak about the recent spike in novel coronavirus cases and warn against unnecessary public exposure.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services is suspending its in-person services, including all interviews and naturalization ceremonies, to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus, according to the agency.

The suspension is effective Wednesday until at least April 1. It includes all field offices, asylum offices and Application Support Centers, which collect fingerprints and biometrics.

Employees will continue to work on services that do not require face-to-face contact with the public, said the spokesperson.

USCIS is responsible for administering the nation’s legal immigration system, including green cards, citizenship and asylum and refugee processing. It also administers naturalization ceremonies across the country — one of the most public and cherished duties the agency carries out.

Field offices will send notices to applicants with scheduled appointments and naturalization ceremonies impacted by the closure. Asylum interviews will be canceled and automatically rescheduled with a new date and time.

The move comes after the union representing USCIS employees called on the agency to cease conducting immigration interviews and naturalization ceremonies amid the growing coronavirus pandemic. The agency’s response to the outbreak had been ad hoc, differing across the country as some offices remained open, others closed and others reduced in-person interviews, according to members of the AFGE National CIS Council 119 which represents around 14,000 federal employees nationwide.

Offices across the San Francisco Bay area closed to the public on Tuesday, following the public health order requiring most residents to remain in place.

“If you want to get this thing fixed, if you want to stop the virus from spreading,” Kenneth Palinkas, executive vice president of the council told CNN Tuesday. “Everybody’s got to participate. You know, if you have a weak link, it’s all for nought.”

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