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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

USCIS PUSH TO DEPORT SERBIAN SISTERS HIGHLIGHTS PROBLEMS AT THE AGENCY

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One reads this story in the Dallas Morning News and is prompted to scratch his or her head wondering how these two women - both here since early childhood, both with completely clean criminal backgrounds, both married to US citizens - could be facing deportation. And how is DHS so tone deaf to the facts? The agency has the discretion to not pursue deportation, yet it chooses to do so. The agency also has the authority to allow these women to pursue their green cards, yet chooses not to do so. And they are silent when the women and their lawyer try to find out why.



What is apparent is that when reporters get wind of these outrageous cases and start to ask questions, suddenly sanity returns. When you have a case where USCIS is acting outrageously, call Nina Bernstein at the New York Times or Jacquielynn Floyd of the Dallas Morning News.



USCIS has a serious problem throughout the agency when it comes to secrecy and accountability. The agency hasn't issued a major regulation in years. Why? Because it has moved to rulemaking by memo which means no public comment requirements, no running the memo by Office of Management and Budget, no proving compliance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act, the Privacy Act, the Paperwork Reduction Act, etc. Forget about the fact that this is completely illegal and the agency is finally getting sued over the latest example - the infamous Neufeld H-1B memo.In short, they now rule in the way that means they are accountable to no one.



Another example is seen at the USCIS regional service centers. They issue decisions anonymously via the mail and if you don't like the decision, you can try and get the agency's appeals unit to reverse the decision. Of course, that decision takes a good year or more and most people don't have the time or financial resources to go that route. USCIS knows this. In fact, they count on it. I asked a high ranking USCIS official about the anonymity of their examiners a few months back and she laughed off the question saying that the examiners would be putting their lives at risk if they actually had to put their names on a decision. Seriously? Tell that to the IRS whose auditors are happy to hand you their card and direct phone number.



And as you can see from this article, local offices aren't much different. Only when a reporter called did these women receive anything resembling a fair hearing of the facts of their cases.



The agency even seems to defy members of Congress. Congressional offices have immigration case workers who for decades have been able to help resolve cases like that of the Serbian sisters. Talk to those case workers today and they are just as frustrated as the immigration lawyers. They are usually provided little information and can often accomplish nothing.



Beginning with President Lyndon Johnson's signing of the Freedom of Information Act in the 1960s and continuing with the passage of "sunshine laws" around the US over the last several decades, we are supposed to be operating in a system of openness in government. That seems to be lost on USCIS and the agency has been moving further and further into a culture of secrecy. Unfortunately, for the last several Administrations, the politically appointed leaders at USCIS often seem to be more interested in being on the "side" of USCIS and not making waves at the agency. But aren't they really supposed to be on the side of the American public in terms of delivering good service in a just and legally correct manner?



In more and more cases immigration lawyers handle today, the media option seems to be the one that  will work. When an agency has to be regularly embarrassed by reporters in to doing the right thing rather than because it operates in a culture of openness and adherence to principles of justice, it is in need of serious reform. Yet we still hear nothing from this White House or from USCIS admitting they have a problem. As I recently noted in my post about USCIS' latest announcement of a massive fee hike, you can't hope to solve a problem if you don't even admit it exists.



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Comments

  1. My 2 cents's Avatar
    I do not see any immigration legislation (CIR or piecemeal) under Obama's presidency. Legals seem to have a better chance under a Republican president (eg. Schedule A)
  2. hmm's Avatar
    Weren't things better for immigrants under Mr Bush?
  3. USC's Avatar
    Excellent post, Greg.
  4. Geroge Chell's Avatar
    In general, very few governments want to encourage international marriages. They think this is a nuisance. As disgusting as this is, there are several cases in the UK where the husband had to leave because the wife does not get the residency. One British doctor is moving with his Thai doctor wife to Singapore after the British government did not give her residency.
  5. USC's Avatar
    Great news. Prominent Can & anti loses re-election bid:

    http://www.numbersusa.com/content/my/congress/1051/reportcard/RECENT/#tabset-3

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