Consular work isn’t just visas
As a Foreign Service officer and consular officer for 45 years, now retired, I take exception to the White House proposal to move the Bureau of Consular Affairs from the State Department to the Department of Homeland Security, as reported in Josh Rogin’s July 10 op-ed, “Who decides who gets into America?”
Consular officers adjudicate visas, issue reports of birth and death of Americans overseas, adjudicate U.S. passport applications and assist Americans who get into trouble in foreign countries (get arrested, get sick, etc.). This requires every staffer, from the lowest worker to the highest, to have a good knowledge of the host country and thorough knowledge of the geography (are people from a particular neighborhood more or less likely to stay in the United States?). Consular officers, as do all Foreign Service officers, liaise with local officials, but for consular officers, those local officials include police officers, jailers, doctors and those in the foreign ministry.
In other words, consular officers have a much wider span of duties than merely adjudicating visas. These additional duties prepare consular officers for other duties within the State Department. Immigration officers are not trained in diplomacy, nor should they be, because they have other responsibilities requiring other skills.
This is why the consular function must remain within the State Department.
Brian McNamara, Alexandria