People in other countries applying for US visas are well aware that the consular officer who happens to be the one who is assigned your file has great authority over you. Get an easy-going one and you are in luck. But more likely you will get a tough nut since that is the type that the US government seems to want, even if they give a bad impression of the US as being populated by rude, surly types. Or it may be that it is easier to turn people down if you have an unfriendly demeanor and so the consular officials adopt that pose.
But when I read judge William Alsup’s ruling in the case of Rahinah Ibrahim, I realized that these consular officers are even more powerful than I imagined.
The Immigration and Nationality Act confers upon consular officers exclusive authority to review applications for visas, precluding even the Secretary of State from controlling their determinations. See 8 U.S.C. 1104(a), 1201(a). The powers afforded to consular officers include, in particular, the granting, denying, and revoking of immigrant and non-immigrant visas. [My italics-MS]
I was surprised by that. Given that consular officers are employees of the State Department, it is surprising that Congress would pass a law that prevented the Secretary of State from issuing a direct order to grant or not grant a visa to someone. Perhaps it was intended as a way to prevent too much direct political influence but I cannot image that it is absolute. Surely if the US government deems the granting (or not) of a visa to be in the national interest, the president through the Secretary of State can order such an action and override the local consular official?