On Wednesday, the federal agency responsible for overseeing the legal immigration system replaced a Trump-era mission statement. It had deleted the label “nation of immigrant” and called the U.S. “a country of possibility and welcome” in its new creed.
U.S. Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Ur Jaddou stated that U.S. Ur Jaddou, Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), stated that the new mission statement better reflects President Biden’s commitment to an accessible and humane immigration system.
Jaddou stated that USCIS strives to give a prompt decision, whether it is yes or no, and with the greatest respect to any petitioner or person seeking a benefit. This could be a U.S. citizen looking to reunite with a family member or a U.S. company trying to hire a skilled foreign worker, a lawful permanent residence seeking naturalization or a person seeking refuge from persecution.
Although Wednesday’s symbolic change is part of a larger Biden administration effort, it also erases remnants from the Trump administration’s immigration agenda. This agenda, which was focused on limiting legal immigration avenues and using harsher rhetoric towards immigrants, was based on restrictions.
The Biden administration ordered immigration agencies to stop using terms such as “illegal aliens” last year because it considered them dehumanizing.
In 2018, there was a huge outcry from progressive immigration advocates and others when the Trump administration released a USCIS Mission Statement that, among other things, removed the passage “nation of immigrant” which had been part of the agency’s long-standing mission statement.
According to the Trump administration, “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services manages the nation’s legal immigration system. They do this by efficiently and fairly adjudicating immigration benefits requests, protecting Americans, and honoring their values.
Francis Cissna, then-USCIS Director, stated that he removed “customers” from the mission statement for 2018 because he felt it fostered an institutional culture that was focused on satisfying those applying for immigration benefits.
Cissna stated at the time that “use of the term leads us to the erroneous belief applicants and petitioners, instead than the American people are whom we ultimately serve.”
The Trump-era mission statement was replaced by a shorter but significantly different one by the Biden administration: “USCIS upholds America’s promise as a nation that welcomes and can be with fairness and integrity and respects all we serve.”
Jaddou stated in an email to all employees of the agency that the new statement incorporates feedback from 750 employees who took part in a survey.
She told employees, “Overwhelmingly the word you submitted was integrity. You also mentioned compassion, service and security.
Michael Knowles, U.S. Asylum Officer and President of Local 1924, which represents USCIS employees in greater Washington, D.C., said that the new mission statement “renews our senses of purpose, affirms what the country stands for.”
Knowles stated, “The way we treat people seeking our protection determines who you are: The American dream is either renewed (or betrayed), one case at time.” “When we treat every person with dignity, respect and trust, we can keep our faith in the promise.”
USCIS employees adjudicate green cards, asylum, refugee status and work permits applications.
The USCIS has made many policy changes since President Biden was elected, many of which have reversed Trump’s legal immigration restrictions. The agency stopped a 2019 rule making it harder for low-income immigrants obtain permanent residency. It also reversed some asylum restrictions.
The USCIS is largely funded by application fees. However, the agency continues to struggle to deal with a growing backlog of petitions. This has made it difficult to review cases on time and the agency still relies heavily on paper records.
It has not yet implemented several important Biden administration policy propositions, including a plan for a revamp of the U.S. border asylum process and a rule to protect the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals from legal challenges.