On February 22, 2018, Director L. Francis Cissna announced the new mission statement for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services governmental agency (“USCIS”).
“USCIS secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system.”
The new USCIS mission statement, as released on February 22, 2018, reads as follows:
“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.”
Regarding the new USCIS mission statement, Director Cissna, made the following statement, “that the agency’s mission was “not something where you put eternal professions of American values. That sort of thing belongs chiseled in the wall of a monument, not in some bureaucratic mission statement.” Judge that for what is worth. For the full text of Director Cissna’s statement on the new USCIS mission statement, click here.
There has been a substantial amount of vocal dissent concerning the new USCIS mission statement. A March 28, 2018 National Law Review article stated that the new USCIS mission statement “no longer emphasizes customer satisfaction, i.e., the satisfaction of petitioners and beneficiaries. Instead, it focuses on serving the American people and making sure that benefits are not provided to those who do not qualify or those who “would do us harm. . . .” Because, after all, why should agency with the word “service” in its name, actually commit to providing good customer service?
Leon Rodriguez, the former Director of USCIS, poignantly points out that the new mission statement eradicates the mention of a “nation or immigrants.” This key phrase, which was present in the first sentence of the old USCIS mission statement is a phrase that Senator John F. Kennedy famously used for the title of his 1958 book on American immigration.
Since Kennedy’s book, the phrase “nation of immigrants” has become a quintessential American phrase, a phrase so engrained in our national consciousness that it has become deeply rooted in our bipartisan lexicon, often used with equally emphatic fervor by both republicans and democrats alike. Both parties have used the “nation of immigrants” phrase to extol the contributions immigrants have made to our country. At the very beginning of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, a national discussion was brewing about too many immigrants coming into the U.S. and how the immigration system getting out of control. To this, President Reagan responded on July 30, 1981, just months after taking office, “Our nation is a nation of immigrants. More than any other country, our strength comes from our own immigrant heritage and our capacity to welcome those from other lands. No free and prosperous nation can by itself accommodate all those who seek a better life or flee persecution. We must share this responsibility with other countries.”
While agencies are certainly free to revise their mission statements, this USCIS revision felt like a bludgeoning to many. The deletion of “nation of immigrants” in the new mission statement did not appear to be coincidental, but rather seemed to deliberately underscore the Trump Administration’s nativist, anti-immigrant rhetoric, scapegoating of immigrants, and formation of new policies that make it more difficult for immigrants to obtain visas, refugee or asylum status, or green cards.
The revision of the USCIS mission statement is yet another example of the systematic, anti-immigrant policies being promulgated under the Trump Administration. Whereas the new mission statement appears to rearticulate the Trump Administration’s narrow view that immigrants are a threat and burden to our country, we must not let it damper our spirits and stifle our voices. Here at the immigration law firm of Kuck | Baxter Immigration Partners, we’ve seen how immigrants from every country and socioeconomic status have worked tirelessly to create new American success stories and better lives not only for themselves but for their children and future generations to come. Despite what the USICS mission statement says, it is interwoven in the fabric of our great nation that we are a nation of immigrants. While we may not like the new USICS mission statement, we must try to find solace in the fact that the key touchstone of USCIS’s professional culture has been sound and honest review of immigration cases. We are confident that this tried-and-true culture will survive this mission statement revision. We can only hope that in this case, the actions of USCIS will speak louder than its words.
At the immigration law firm of Kuck | Baxter, we have seen immigrants face confusion, endless delays and holding patterns, bureaucratic inefficiency, technical glitches, obfuscation, and unpredictable policies that seem to change by the day. We believe that one of the best ways to honor the values of our melting pot nation is not to close doors on immigrants but rather find ways to successfully integrate them into productive members of the fabric of our society.