Ken Cuccinelli, the current Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has enacted several measures have been taken that obstruct the agency’s mission of “fairly and efficiently facilitating legal immigration.” These measures have increased since Cuccinelli’s appointment to the position on June 10, 2019.
Since then, the agency has been a prime proponent of the Trump administration’s “invisible wall”, far-right policies and practices aimed at restricting or ceasing immigration benefits.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform announced Cuccinelli will testify before the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in connection with USCIS’s August 7, 2019, elimination, and subsequent reinstatement, of deferred action adjudications. The purpose of Cuccinelli’s testifying is to explore the policy shift and other changes.
Here are 10 new and destructive measures taken by Cuccinelli that diminish the purpose of the USCIS.
Elimination of Deferred Action
On August 7, 2019, USCIS eliminated its adjudications of non-military deferred action requests at field offices. Deferred action is a temporary measure meant to stop the deportation of children, those with serious medical conditions, and those who face life-threatening circumstances. The change in the policy placed many children at risk of being deported to countries without the medical care they need.
It wasn’t until after the public intervened that deferred action was reinstated. Many question whether or deferred action will remain.
Public Charge “Wealth Test”
USCIS led an issuance of a Homeland Security public charge “wealth test” that limits the ability of noncitizens to obtain green cards. The wealth test also limits low-income noncitizens from not applying for public benefits. The Department of State has published a draconian rule designed to largely mirror DHS’s. Cuccinelli has also suggested that the Statue of Liberty’s “give me your tired, your poor,” only applies to white, European immigrants. The public charge rule, that was implemented on August 14, 2019, remains enjoined by multiple federal courts. If implemented, the regulation will profoundly constrain legal immigration to, and in, the United States.
Assignment of USCIS Personnel to ICE and CBP Enforcement Duties
Even though USCIS currently is experiencing massive delays in processing applications and petitions for immigrant benefits, the agency has sent an increased number of agency personnel to ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) instead of focusing efforts on their assigned duties. A report surfaced after a congressional hearing which showed USCIS was reassigning resources and performing duties for ICE. On October 16, 2019, USCIS acknowledged this report and confirmed its authenticity. Another report indicates that USCIS may issue a regulation transferring over $200 million in applicant and petitioner fees out of USCIS and into ICE.
Updated U Visa Law Enforcement Resource Guide
On July 31, USCIS published an updated “U Visa Law Enforcement Resource Guide” that threatens to make it more difficult for victims of crime to obtain protection. To qualify for a U Visa, law enforcement issues certifications of cooperation. The revisions to the resource guide, including heightened attention paid to the discretionary nature of certifications as well as to law enforcement’s prerogative to withdraw existing certifications, could inhibit future issuance, creating barriers to potentially life-saving relief.
Asylum Ban 2.0
USCIS has implemented a rule that blocks almost all non-Mexican nationals who enter the US through the southern border from obtaining asylum; a legal form of immigration. The agency continues to conduct screenings that impose an unduly high legal standard on arriving asylum seekers subject to the “Remain in Mexico” program. These screenings have overwhelmingly resulted in affected individuals’ forced return to Mexico pending a court hearing, despite widespread kidnappings and sexual assaults of protection-seeking populations below the southern border.
Closure of International Offices
Since Cuccinelli’s appointment, USCIS has closed four international offices, while announcing plans to close others by August 2020. Shutting down these offices limits immigration services provided to U.S. military personnel, U.S. citizen parents seeking to adopt international children, families awaiting reunification, refugees requesting protection, and numerous other affected populations.
Weakened Case Processing Goals
Under Cuccinelli, USCIS has weakened processing goals and purposefully restructured their agency rules on timeliness. During a July 16 congressional hearing, USCIS outlined various prongs of its backlog reduction plan, one of which is to “Redefine Processing Time Goals to Better Reflect True Cycle Times”—in effect, to change goals to accommodate underperformance rather than to change performance to meet goals. In a subsequent letter, USCIS confirmed that it had “updated processing time goals to better reflect operational realities,” though the agency has not publicly disclosed the new benchmarks. This disregard for their agency’s duties has resulted in an increased immigration backlog.
Narrowed Definition of “Residency” for Some U.S. Military Families
On August 28, 2019, USCIS issued guidance set to go into effect on October 29 that redefines “residence” as it relates to certain children of U.S. service members stationed abroad. Under prior policy, these children would have acquired citizenship automatically. As a result of the new guidance, affected parents will have to undergo a lengthy application process to secure their children’s citizenship. This needless change in policy sparked panic among U.S. troops around the world.
Shortened Window Before Credible Fear Interviews
In July, USCIS the mandatory waiting period for asylum seekers to present their cases from 48 to 24 hours. The unfair policy is directed at limited asylum seekers and decreasing immigration to the U.S. This rule undermines due process rights by leaving affected individuals without sufficient time to secure counsel or prepare for their interviews. The decrease of the waiting period is likely to led to a decrease in asylum.
Elimination of Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program
This program allows family members of Filipino World War II Veterans (who fought for the United States) to enter the United States while they wait for their visas. These veterans are now in their 90s and require extra care from their family members, many of whom are still in The Philippines. USCIS eliminating this program will divide and tear apart families caring for vulnerable veterans during the final years of their lives.
Source: Think Immigration