This case study takes place in the U.S. citizenship and immigration services office in Newark NJ. The agency is aware of a huge and noble task placed upon it by the government of the United States. The world has become a global village where information spreads fast and wide.
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The good prospects of the land of wonders have fuelled an increase in the number of people seeking visas, work permits, as well as citizenship. The biggest challenge the department is facing is the issue of asylum.
The dire tor assures that the agency is aware of the international laws that oblige countries to allow people who have fled violence, persecution, and civil wars around the world to seek asylum in their territories.1 According to the deputy director of the USCIS, there are two types of immigrants to the United States – the legal and illegal immigrants.
Some legal migrants come to the country armed with Visas, but end up in expiration of their Visas and work permits disappearing in a big country. This group also includes foreign students, tourists, and business people. During an interview with the researcher, the deputy director of CIA said that illegal immigrants risked their lives travelling in boats in the high seas to enter through the shores of the United States.
There are cases of immigrants. Others enter the country through the border of Canada and Mexico without informing the US officials (Goldman and Loughlin 6). The risks involved do not deter them from making efforts to reach the land of wonders. By the year 2011, the number of people seeking visas, work permits, and citizenship has shot up.
This has intensified operations in the agency bearing in mind the backlog which already exists. The problem has been aggravated by an increase in the number of illegal immigrants in the country. The director of the agency alludes that his officials are aware of the fact that there are two types of immigrants: states-legal and illegal ones.
Once the officials are able to detect illegal immigrants, they face two options: either deport them back to their country of origin/ turn them back, or shelter them in the country as they await the screening process or the immigration court (The National Lawyers Guild 11-12). Those who are lucky to obtain working permits and permanent residency become the US citizens.
A lot of concern have been raised upon the manner in which the agency processed the applications. The director of the United States Citizen and Immigration Services admits that his office lacks adequate capacity to determine the ingenuity of applications made.
According to Mr. Wellington, an official with the department, the officials are forced to make decisions without full information about the applicant. This definitely alters the ingenuity of the decision making. Therefore, the department is susceptible to committing errors which inconvenience the applicants.
There have been instances when the department had cleared asylum seekers who were criminals in disguise. These people ended up in being a thorn in the flesh of the law enforcing agencies. One often wonders how such ineligible aliens enter the states despite being in place of a rigorous screening process.
According to the deputy director of the agency, they lack the necessary measures to ensure the screening process is professional. The CIA director claims that most of the drug related cases and other serious crimes in the U.S. are committed by illegal immigrants who have passed under the hands of USCIS.
His main concern is that these criminals passed through the screening process conducted by the USCIS. During last year’s summer, Pati led a group of immigrants from Taiwan. The 12 plus group was fleeing from the communist regime in China which was becoming increasingly intolerant to the calls for the independent Taiwan.
As the law in the U.S. stipulates, they made their application for asylum. They were ordered to appear before the USCIS officials for screening, which they did. Unfortunately, they were denied asylum despite their case being genuine. The director attributes such mistakes to lack of full capacity within the agency to effectively review applications made.
Mistake of Incorrect Judgment of Legibility of Aliens
As much as the director of the USCIS points out the progress that his agency has made in improving service delivery in the department, he admits that there is often a mistake in judging the legality of the immigrants. His officials often process the application with a mindset that all applicants are illegal asylum seekers.
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They forget that there are genuine refugees with other applications being on work, student and visitor basis. Turning such people or subjecting to the long delays is not fair at all and may end up in spoiling the good image of the nation. Once the agency is able to pick illegal immigrants, it may allow them into the country and order them to appear in court at a later date.
The deputy director of CIA Mr. Jones points out that this is a grave mistake, since these immigrants have got no official address; they end up in not appearing in the courts. The orders of removal are placed against the asylee in absentia. The aliens’ ends up in living in the country while dodging the authorities.
This scenario became evident in the summer of 2009 when a 23 year old Jorge Garcia was declared an illegal immigrant by the USCIS and ordered to appear before the department. The director admits to have been in charge of the case. He says that during the trial, Jorge failed to appear in court.
The authorities were informed that the young man had fled and his whereabouts was unknown to the authorities. The police were instructed to find and apprehend him. At one point, the director had almost forgotten the case of Jorge.
One day, after many months, the director was having dinner with his family when some shocking news brought him back to the world of reality. A young drug dealer had apparently shot dead one police officer and wounded another when they tried to arrest him. What perturbed the director’s mind was the picture of the suspected drug dealer. The image resembled that of a young Jorge.
This disturbed the director who upon closer review of his files found that Jorge had criminal records. This case points the eminent errors committed by the USCIS officials while reviewing the applications and in the handling of cases.
This has been attributed to the challenge of inadequate finance which faced the department. Inadequate finance hinders the agency from conducting individualized hearings on the lawfulness and necessity for detention.
Failure to fully investigate Cases
When he was marrying Jean, a U.S. citizen, Farah, an Iranian, was aware of the immigration law which allows a foreign national who enters the United States of America with a valid visa to upgrade his or her status. His application for upgrade of citizenship status has been lying in the Nevada office for the last two years.
The USCIS officials have disregarded the fact that Farah was eligible for citizenship. However, the immigration officials at times make erroneous mistakes by detaining or even deporting such persons without regarding the fact the person is now eligible for citizenship.
According to Farah, he cannot understand why Hashim, a colleague from Iran received his citizenship. Hashim is a runaway criminal from Iran who after staying in the United States for the same period like Farah, got married to a U.S. citizen.
Majority of these visitors mischievously get married to the U.S. citizens purely as an avenue of acquiring citizenship though naturalization. Farah is convinced that Hashim did not Marry Lopez out of love but as a way of acquiring citizenship and avoid deportation once his residency permit expires.
Two years into the marriage and the couple is considering filing for a divorce due to the countless disagreements, which is obviously caused by negligence on the part of Hashim. The director of the agency claims that the agency fails to fully investigate such cases due to inadequate funds.
Such immigrants are left to stay in the country. These people end up in competing with legal U.S. citizens with others turning against the state and becoming criminals. This mistake arises as a result of the agency not having a full budget to finance its operations, a common problem of many agencies in public administration.
One of the immigration officials, Mrs. Brown, admits that they make erroneous judgment when handling the update of form 1-485. They take most of the cases as being similar to illegal marriages to the US citizens in order to acquire the citizenship and avoid the US immigration law.
Their problem is aggravated by lack of enough funds to fully investigate marriage based cases both within and without the United States. It is a common phenomenon to have the immigration judges refuse to order the deportation of certain immigrants due to the fact that they are married to the US citizens.
Farah came to the United States to escape the Islamic regime in Iran which could not put up with his democratic ideologies. He was accompanied by a cousin whose application for asylum has been lying in the office for a long time. Every time they check with the office, they are infirmed that the application is waiting the security clearance from FBI.
The two directors of the agencies have been trying to address this issue with minimal success. The long process causes back-logs and delay resulting in a lot of inconveniences to the applicants-financial and time costs. The agency lacks the necessary capability to produce reports that detail the status of the long pending name checks by the FBI (Ombudsman 41).
In 2007, the director of the USCIS launched the E-Verify system. This is a tool for employers in the United States to determine the legality of their workforce. Some employers in pursuit of a cheap labor spur up illegal immigration by shipping in immigrants into the country. Despite the success of the system, there have been instances where errors in entry of data of a person result into a ban on grounds of illegality.
The discrepancies are caused by the poor handling of the system by immigration officials. This is an error which causes a lot of inconveniences to many would be workers as the system declares them not fit legally to work in the United States. It is early June, and Mariano, the immigrant from Mexico, logs into the internet to check his employment status.
He is seven months old in the U.S. and has been awarded a three year work permit. Upon entering his details into the system, he is baffled by the information that appears on the screen. He can not figure out how the system puts him in the category of people who are ineligible to work in the United States. There must have been an error when loading his details in the system.
It is estimated that by the year 2007, there were more that 1.2 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. A majority of these people come from China, El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala and Philippines. Out of these, the agency is only able to handle about a hundred thousand applications per years, – 18,784 of these are employment related.
The agency has been accused by Amnesty International US chapter of gross violation of human rights in its quest to deport and arrest the unauthorized immigrants (GAO 6, 7). An official with Amnesty International accuses the agency of denying some detained immigrants, their right to challenge their detention in an independent court of law. They are held in custody without a chance to access a judicial body or immigration judge (Amnesty International 8).
Jabel is an Iranian who entered into the states with Farah. He was granted a work permit which expired in late 2010. The USCIS officials called and forcefully deported him. The officials did not heed to his pleas to allow him depart voluntarily at his own personal expenses (National Immigration Justice Centre 20).
Voluntary departure would have favored Jabel as he would have been free to reenter the United States in the future without any bar of relief as opposed to the forceful deportation through a court order.
Farah who is a lecturer at JF Kennedy School of Public Administration recalls the story of a colleague who sought for an update of citizenship status. To her surprise, twenty days after her naturalization through marriage to a US citizen, the data at USCIS database had not been updated.
The personal file still read that she was in the United States on a work permit yet she was now a US citizen. This is despite the agency being mandate to update the status within two days of the naturalization process.
According to the director of finance at USIC, the agency runs its operations in an independent way in terms of financing its operations. It relies on fees it charges to those people seeking services from it.2 The outcome of this move has been a shortage of funds for the agency.
This happens despite the department that has got huge responsibilities, yet its financial base is not solvent enough to support these operations. For instance, in order to contain the problem of illegal immigrants, several measures need to be put in place by the agency.
The director of the US coast Guards points out that the problem of illegal immigrants is compounded by the long United States border with neighboring countries such as Mexico, also the US shore line, another great route and entry point for slaves into the states.
Without enough finance, the agency ends up not effectively handling the issue of illegal immigrants into the United States. More so, inadequate funds also hamper most of the USCIS daily operations. According to Mr. Miguel, agency has been experiencing back-log problems due to the large number of applications made.
It is a humanitarian act to accord a person who is fleeing persecution a decent lifestyle, especially when in the detention camps. However, the department ends up not fulfilling this noble obligation due to inadequate finance (Homeland Security 44).
Error in fee calculation
The director of finance reveals that the agency uses a method of calculating fees formulated in the year 1997. The reliance on this 1997 model is an erroneous decision that has been made by the agency for a number of reasons. The old data have no relation whatsoever to the current processes and their related costs.
This has been caused by the change in the processes over the years and the additional adjudication requirement after the 9/11(The National Lawyers Guild 11). According to the finance director, the fees received from the applicant did not reflect the agency’s cost of operation. The lengthy processing of the applications often incurs more costs than what is received.
Slow processing of application forms has been another let down in the agency
The USCIS officials have over and over again being accused of creation a back log of applications made. There have been complaints where one has to wait for several weeks after filling their applications. The delay places a lot of serious challenges to applicants who might need the receipts in proving that they have complied with the relevant laws.
It does not make sense why one pays for an application, yet it takes him/her weeks to get a mere receipt. An insight into the operations of the agency reveals sheer and intentional delays by the officials. The issue of delays also affects the green card applicants.
There is a sad tale of delays in getting the Alien Identification and Telecommunication stamps arguably due to poor decisions made by some field officers. The field offices at times make these erroneous and unfair decisions of withholding the ADIT stamps despite them knowing the importance of the stamps to the aliens.
The stamps are used by the aliens to travel and work in the United States as they wait for the processing of their green cards.
Wrong Data Entry
One issue that this study finds intriguing is the reason why there are numerous complains that reaches the office of the Ombudsman and the United States Citizen Immigration Service on publication errors in both the green cards and work permits. The obvious answer is error committed by the immigration officials when handling the applications.
When Farah was collecting his form from the office, he found that the photograph of Jabel had been put in his form. (Homeland Security 44). This is a problem which, according to the director, is caused by the lack of keenness on the side of the officials responsible for the processing of the applications.
Wrong wording in the Form I-102
Upon obtaining the correct I-94 card, Farah was unfortunate to lose it 9 months later in a robbery ordeal in Dallas. He was informed by a colleague in the university that he needed to fill Form I-102 This is a form used to replace a lost I-94 card and is used by the CBP at entry.
However, the updated instructions on the form confused Farah as the instructions on it restrained an applicant from using the form to request an action on a form I-94 (USCIS 3). This has been brought about by erroneous wording in one of the sections of the form. Official in the office of immigration concede that there is an imminent error in the wording of form 1-94 which has brought confusion to people who are in need of using it.
Delay in granting the Lawful Permanent Residence Status
The law allows an asylee to seek for update his/her status to become a lawful permanent resident (National Justice Centre 58). This is done through an application submitted to though form I-485 to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service.
Poor decision making within the agency results in slow processing with some asylee having to wait for a long time to be granted this fundamental right. At times, the officials make mistakes in implementing the 1990′ Immigration Act. This act allows USCIS to deny a request based on some reasons.
For instance, improved conditions in refugee home country may compel the immigration officials to deny an application to extend asylum. An erroneous decision about improved political climate in a given country may put the life of an asylee at risk (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom 7).
The agency lacks the necessary financial and capabilities to assess the political environment in a given state and is forced to rely on intelligence and media information which might not be satisfactory (National Immigrant Justice Centre 57). Rafael immigrated into the U.S. one year ago to escape possible persecution by members of a deadly drug gang in his neighborhood.
They claimed that he had information about their illegal operations and might report them to the police. Raphael was employed by Farah as a gardener in his residence. His stay in the states was a relief for him from the killer gang in his home country. He used to tell Rafael how he wished he would be allowed to stay in the US forever.
However, error by the immigration officials cut short his stay in the U.S. claiming that the recent crackdown of drug barons and gangs in Mexico had made the atmosphere safe for Rafael to go back. Four days after Rafael was deported back to Mexico, he was killed by the gang. According to T USCIS, this is one of the many cases where the USCIS officials make wrong decisions about the safety of immigrants (16).
In order to make the department effective, this report drew the following recommendations. The US Congress needs to enact laws to create a conjecture against the confinement of immigrants and asylum seekers. The authorities should ensure that the department has enough finance to be able to offer individualized hearings on the lawfulness and necessity for detention.
The officials should be trained to operate the E-Verify system to avoid discrepancies in data entered. The US government should commit itself to enhance the adoption of human rights in the detention facilities. This can be achieved through legislation or relevant policies implemented by the relevant agencies under the watchful eye of an independent oversight body.
The policies should be geared towards protecting the rights of the immigrants without compromising the sovereignty and security of the United States. There should be relevant laws to protect the rights of the unaccompanied child immigrant (Bhabha 10).
Despite the promise that there would be prompt issuance of green cards upon application, customers still complain on delays occurring. Where has then the USCIS gone wrong? Is it not logic for it to continue with the issuance of the Aliens Identification and Telecommunication stamps as the issues are being solved once and for all?
Or when will the agency stop making the errors of commission and error of omission? It might be that the director of the USCIS or even the Ombudsman would be better placed to answer the question.
Amnesty International. Jailed Without Justice: Immigration Detention in the USA. Web.
Bhabha, Jacqueline. “Not a Sack of Potatoes: Moving and Removing Children Across Borders.” Public Interest Law Journal. 15 (2006).
GAO. Improved Benefits: Improvement Needed to Address Backlogs and Ensure Quality of Adjudications. Washington DC. Homeland Security, 2005.
Goldman, Thomas and Peter Loughlin. Applying for Asylum in the United States. Florida: Goldman & Loughlin PLLC Law Firm, 2010. Print.
Homeland Security. ”Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman”. Annual Report 2006. Web. <https://www.dhs.gov/topic/cis-ombudsman>
The National Lawyers Guild. Know Your Rights Manual for the Transgender Community: Immigration Law. San Francisco: The National Lawyer’s Guild, n.d. Print.
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. Report on Asylum Seekers in Expedited Removal. Washington DC: USCIRF, 2005. Print.
USCIS. Aila Liaison CommitteeAgenda.2008. Web.
1 See; Unite States Commission on International Religious Freedom. Report on Asylum Seekers in Expedited Rermoval.Vol1, Washington DC: uscirf.February 2005.
2 USCIS is a fee funded agency and pays its operating expenses from fees collected. The fees are not inclusive of those charged from asylum, refugee and military naturalizations programs. There is also the notion that the delays in processing applications are intentional as the agency fears suffering funds shortages. These are funds generated from issuance of interim employment authorization documents while the green card applications pending.