On February 9, 2022, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services released an updated mission statement. He states, “USCIS delivers on America’s promise as a nation of welcome and opportunity with fairness, integrity, and respect for all those we serve.” I commend the administration for this action, and here’s why.
This new statement contrasts with the previous administration’s mission statement, which read: “United States Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s legal immigration system, maintaining its integrity and its promises by effectively and fairly adjudicating applications for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.”
A mission statement is like the North Star of any organization. It affirms the values it defends and sets in motion the actions and services that the organization will provide. These values will instill an emotional connection with those with whom the organization interacts, whether they are external customers or internal employees.
The previous administration instilled and projected fear. The mission statement stems from the various draconian executive orders that many of us will never forget, including the travel ban, Donald Trump’s series of executive actions that imposed severe restrictions on travel to states States for citizens of a number of Muslim-majority countries. . As such, we have seen an enhanced malicious application, undue review of requests and unprecedented denials. While immigration attorneys like myself and my clients were in a constant state of anxiety, on reflection, I can only imagine that the mindset of many USCIS employees might have been the same.
I appreciate that the Biden administration did not just come up with a new mission statement independently, but instead took the thoughts of USCIS employees, listened to them, and understood their values. In its statement, the agency informed the public that “[l]Last year, USCIS management allowed employees to submit words they felt best exemplified the agency’s work. The new mission statement reflects that workforce feedback, the Biden administration’s priorities, and Director Jaddou’s vision of an inclusive and accessible agency.
As a result of this team effort, I envision a USCIS that can be more compassionate as an organization. And people within the organization can now feel free to reflect that compassion – values they likely already uphold. All of the words in the administration’s mission statement are powerful, but I want to reflect on just one here: “respect”.
The use of the word the respect rejoices as it will set the tone and flow for all that we hope to see from USCIS. Merriam-Webster Thesaurus and Thesaurus.com both list respect as synonymous with love. I wrote recently about how we need more love in the world. For USCIS to accomplish its mission with the respect is an action of love and shows how organizations can show their love.
I hope and expect to see some positive action. Here are my three main expectations:
- Respectful adjudication of applications. A respectful decision should include reading all the pages we submit in our cases. When we receive requests for additional evidence or RFEs, we are often puzzled as to whether the evidence has even been read. We scratch our heads wondering if the RFE was sent to save time or if there was a genuine question about the evidence, and if so, what in particular did we not encounter?
- Creation of strategic policies to reduce the unprecedented backlog. The backlogs that have developed as a result of the policies of the previous administration, as well as those from the COVID-19 shutdowns, have had an unimaginable impact on people. Some can’t work, some are stuck outside the United States, separated from their families, and some are just waiting in limbo for their green cards. USCIS has begun to launch helpful policies. Examples include extending the validity dates of specific categories of work permits, waiving interviews in some green card applications, and establishing guidelines for certain visa categories, such as the O visa and visa waivers. national interest, thus making the process more efficient.
- Compassionate policies that reflect human experiences. The agency must care for people from all walks of life – from asylum seekers fleeing for their lives to highly skilled and talented people who want to make a difference in the world. Policies on paper must reflect what is happening on the ground. Our outdated laws established more than four decades ago do not reflect the problems of today. But regulations and policies can be established keeping modern issues in mind. USCIS would be better served bringing in experts in the field to help shape the policies that carry out the new mission statement.
So what’s in a mission statement? It’s not just a statement; it’s a mission that gives us hope and direction to begin building a better and more humane immigration system to ensure America’s prosperity for years to come.
Tahmina Watson is the founding lawyer of Watson Immigration Act in Seattle, where she practices US immigration law with a focus on business immigration. She has been blogging on immigration law since 2008 and has written numerous articles for numerous publications. She is the author of Legal heroes in the Trump era: be inspired. Grow your impact. change the world and The Startup Visa: Key to Job Growth and Economic Prosperity in America. She is also the founder of the Washington Immigrant Defense Network (TO BROADEN), which funds and facilitates legal representation in the immigration courtroom, and co-founder of Airport Lawyers, which provided essential services during the early travel bans. Tahmina is regularly quoted in the media and is the host of the podcast Tahmina talks about immigration. She is a Puget Sound Business Journal 2020 Women of Influence winner. Business Intern recently named her one of the top immigration attorneys in the United States helping tech startups. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter at @tahminawatson.