The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced Friday it will temporarily suspend in-person services at all field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers on Inauguration Day and one day prior, citing safety reasons.
USCIS said in a news release that the closures will take place on Jan. 19 and 20 “to ensure the safety of our employees and for individuals with appointments” for these days. People with appointments scheduled for the two days were urged to contact USCIS to reschedule.
Already, no USCIS offices are accepting walk-in visits, with scheduled appointments only being admitted at this time.
The USCIS did not provide any details regarding the safety issue that prompted the decision to close offices around Inauguration Day, but the announcement comes one day after the release of a joint security bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and eight other agencies, noting an elevated security risk following the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.
The bulletin, which was obtained and reported on by several news outlets (pdf), indicates that “domestic violent extremists” pose the most likely threat to the presidential inauguration, especially by “those who believe the incoming administration is illegitimate.”
“In light of the storming of the U.S. Capitol on 6 January, planned events in Washington, D.C., in the lead up to and day of Inauguration Day offer continued opportunities for violence targeting public officials, government buildings, and federal and local law enforcement,” the assessment reads.
Also on Thursday, FBI Director Chris Wray said during a security briefing that the bureau was monitoring an “extensive amount of concerning online chatter” related to potential threats leading up to the presidential inauguration.
Wray said that his department was assessing incoming leads about calls for armed protests, potential threats linked to the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol breach, as well as other types of potential threats.
“When we talk about potential threats, we are seeing an extensive amount of concerning online chatter—that’s the best way I can describe it—about a number of events surrounding the inauguration and, together with our partners, we evaluate those threats and what kind of resources to employ against them. Right now, we’re tracking calls for potential armed protests and activity leading up to the inauguration,” Wray told Vice President Mike Pence during a briefing on security for the inauguration.
“The reason I use the word potential is one of the real challenges in this space is trying to distinguish what’s aspirational versus what’s intentional. We’re concerned about the potential for violence at multiple protests and rallies planned here in D.C. and in state capitols around the country in the days that come that could bring armed individuals within close proximity to government facilities and officials,” Wray added.
Responding to warnings of potentially violent demonstrations, governors across the nation are calling out National Guard troops, declaring states of emergency, and closing their capitols to the public ahead of the inauguration.
Uncertainty heading into the weekend was a common theme among state officials and law enforcement officers, with many enhancing security based on past demonstrations or general warnings but without specific expectations about whether any protesters would actually show up outside state capitol buildings or other government offices in coming days.