Con­sular work isn’t just visas

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION -

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

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