US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ latest director, Lee Francis Cissna has changed the language of the USCIS mission statement for the sake of “fairness, lawfulness, and efficiency” but the switch hardly reflects that.
The statement change is rather passive. Cissna provided no explanation for the removal of “America’s promise as a nation of immigrants,” but the problem may lie in the fact that it didn’t make a clear division between those “founders” and those attempting to come in from anyplace outside of the West. USCIS, a branch of Homeland Security, is in line with the Department of Homeland Security’s removal (DHS) of Haiti, Belize, and Samoa from the Temporary Protected Status list (TPS).
The older statement read: “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.” A suggestion that all Americans are immigrants would disrupt the system of “purity” and exclusion.
But wasn’t the nation itself “founded” by immigrants?
As of last year, one-fifth of the world’s migrants were living in the US, making it the primary destination for international migrants according to a study by the Migration Policy Institute. Foremost reasons for migration have been, and still are, poverty, social strife, and political turmoil. Migrants aren’t relocating to disrupt American flow.
Moreover, the former statement referred to citizenship applicants as “customers” but Cissna has changed that, too. When dealing with a “customer,” the mission is to satisfy but the director is not there to guarantee that. Instead, applicants will be helped in whichever way employees see fit. “Use of the term leads to the erroneous belief that applicants and petitioners, rather than the American people, are whom we ultimately serve,” he told HuffPost.
The agency’s new mission is to “administer 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.” Cissna insists that the revised plan is to keep Americans safe, implying that immigration is a threat to public safety.
Yet, it’s anything but. Multiple studies have proven otherwise. Instead, they find that immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than do American-born citizens, including second-generation immigrants. Cissna should know that, as the director is the child of an immigrant himself.
At his confirmation hearing last May, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee about his heritage and his pride.
“The immigrant experience has always been a fundamental part of my family life, and I would be proud to carry that heritage with me should I be confirmed to be the Director of USCIS. My mother immigrated to this country from Peru more than 50 years ago and eventually became a U.S. citizen… I speak Spanish exclusively to my own children today. In fact, this hearing will almost certainly be the most my children have ever heard me speak in English at any one time…My mother-in-law also immigrated to this country, as a child, from the Middle East, and eventually became a U.S. citizen,” he said.
It seems Cissna has since forgotten, jumping on the bandwagon of Trump’s “America first” slogan and abandoning the principles that have come to define our country.