New USCIS Mission Statement Shows that its Leadership Misunderstands the Assignment
FAIR Take | February 2022
In the latest act of political theater performed by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) leadership, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Ur Jaddou announced this week that the agency has put forth a new mission statement. The new mission statement replaces the statement recently chosen by former USCIS Director Francis Cissna in 2018.
USCIS’s former statement read, “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers 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.” In a press release, then-Director Cissna explained the revision was needed to remove the phrase “customer service” that was present in the preexisting mission statement. The then-Director rightly believed that applicants and petitioners for immigration benefits are not customers and, generally, should not be treated as such. Former Director Cissna further explained that the 2018 statement was issued as, “a reminder that [USCIS is] always working for the American people.”
USCIS’s new statement, however, reflects a completely different worldview. It reads, “USCIS upholds America’s promise as a nation of welcome and possibility with fairness, integrity, and respect for all we serve.” Notably, this revision omits any reference to Americans, federal law, national security, or even adjudications (which are the bread and butter of every benefit-issuing agency and the primary source of at least 90% of USCIS’s funding). On its face, the new statement suggests that USCIS officers, above all else, must strive to be what most decent Americans understand as merely professional.
While FAIR unequivocally supports these values and believes in treating all immigrants with fairness and respect, the new USCIS mission statement misses the mark by omitting any reference to the spectrum of responsibilities the agency bears. USCIS’s immigration officers and workforce are much more than a friendly welcoming party. The agency is charged with administering the legal immigration system as designed by Congress and embodied in federal immigration law.
Immigration law, by definition, is a set of limitations on who may enter the country and on what terms. USCIS officers are responsible for administering this system of limitations. Failure to do so properly or efficiently is unfair to Americans (the primary stakeholders in immigration law) and the millions of people who seek immigration benefits annually. The failure to administer this system also threatens dire consequences on the health, safety, and economic security of all people who reside the United States.
As feel-good as the 2022 mission statement sounds, it signals 1) a determination to minimize these limitations to the greatest extent possible, in direct conflict with “America’s promise,” which is most clearly articulated by acts of Congress, who represent the will of the American people; 2) a failure to understand that, at the end of the day, the federal government works for the American people, and 3) an obsessive commitment to undo every change made by the previous administration, regardless of need. USCIS can do better.