The Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship Agency revealed a new mission statement on Wednesday, removing Trump-era references to security and safeguards and instead focusing on welcoming newcomers.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which oversees legal visas and green cards and oversees the naturalization system, said the agency needed to refocus on its role as an “accessible and humane” system for immigrants.
The new mission statement reads, “USCIS delivers on America’s promise as a nation of welcome and opportunity with fairness, integrity, and respect for all we serve.”
“The work of USCIS makes America’s possibility a reality for immigrants, the communities and economies they join, and the nation as a whole,” said Ur Jaddou, director of the agency. “At USCIS, we know that every time we award an immigration or naturalization grant, we promote the opportunity to help us build a stronger America. And when we offer sanctuary to those in need of protection, we uphold our nation’s highest ideals.
Since its inception nearly two decades ago, USCIS has struggled to find its identity.
Under Democratic administrations, it is seen as the federal government’s welcoming committee for potential migrants, viewing them as the clients to be served. Republican administrations say that Americans are the agency’s clients and that agency decisions should focus on what best meets the needs of those already there.
“This mission statement further underscores that the screening and control and impact of immigration on the American people is not at all a concern of the Biden administration,” said Robert Law, who was a senior official. from USCIS under President Trump and now works at the Center. for immigration studies
Moreover, he said, the new statement is “not even grammatically correct.”
Immigrant rights activists, however, said the agency signals a significant shift.
“It is a recognition that America’s promise refers not only to our nation’s unlimited potential, but also to our obligation as the leader of the free world to protect the most vulnerable,” Krish O’Mara said. Vignarajah, chairman of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. .
The battle over priorities has played out in agency mission statements over the years.
Prior to the Trump administration, the statement read, “USCIS secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and helpful information to our clients, providing immigration benefits and citizenship, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship and ensuring the integrity of our immigration. system.”
In 2018, the agency removed “immigrant nation” language and the focus on immigrants as clients, and tasked the security mission: “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administer the country’s legal immigration system, protecting its integrity and promises efficiently and effectively. adjudicating applications for immigration benefits fairly while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and upholding our values.
Critics blasted the changes, calling them emblematic of the “invisible wall” they said USCIS was erecting to limit legal migration under Mr Trump.
But Francis Cissna, the Trump-era executive who made the changes, said treating immigrants like customers created what has come to be known as the “get to yes” approach within the government. agency, undermining its focus on making good judgments about who should be allowed in. the country.