Stop Messing With the Immigration Mission Statement and Start Letting More People In
This week, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a new mission statement. Officials in the agency, which oversees visa processing and other key immigration and naturalization functions, scrapped the Trump administration’s controversial statement.
“USCIS upholds America’s promise as a nation of welcome and possibility with fairness, integrity, and respect for all we serve,” the new statement reads. USCIS Director Ur Jaddou told employees in an email that it was more fitting of President Joe Biden’s “commitment to an immigration system that is accessible and humane.” The new statement comes from employee survey responses, in which USCIS workers proposed new phrasing like “innovation, welcoming, and opportunity.”
That tone is a significant departure from USCIS’s stated mission under former President Donald Trump. During his presidency, the agency spoke of administering “the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits”—all while “protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.” Trump’s USCIS controversially omitted the long-present phrase “nation of immigrants” from its mission statement.
Anti-immigration groups have cited the Biden administration’s new USCIS mission statement as proof that Biden is unserious about vetting immigrants and “protecting Americans,” while pro-immigration organizations have praised its message of welcome.
There are two deeper problems lost in this scuffle, however. First, the Biden administration’s handling of immigration so far has not matched the kinder, gentler mission statement. Second, the new USCIS mission statement highlights a worrying degree of executive sway over an agency that, by nature, should have consistent functions between presidential administrations.
Biden’s USCIS has enacted a symbolic change, judging from the agency’s track record in the past year. USCIS faces a massive green card backlog and has struggled to adjudicate applications and dole out visas. The agency let some 80,000 employment-based green cards expire in fiscal year 2021, and thousands of legal migrants were put out of work due to processing delays. Applicant wait times are abysmal—as high as 40 months for certain forms. It’s hard for USCIS to claim it’s welcoming people being kept out of the country by its own bureaucracy or serving them when it can’t process empl
Article from Reason.com