Union for Immigration Processing Officers Joins Opposition to Reform Bill

The union representing 12,000 adjudications officers and staff for the United States Citizen and Immigration Services Council (USCIS) came out in opposition to the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill on Monday morning. 

The USCIS Council and its president, Kenneth Palinkas, joined the letter the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Council, the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, and sheriffs from around the country have signed declaring the 867 page immigration bill makes problems worse for immigration law enforcement rather than better.

In that letter, law enforcement officials noted that there has been a rush on the border by illegal immigrants seeking to get inside the United States before the passage of the amnesty bill from the Gang of Eight. They also wrote that the bill “provides no guarantee of increased border security.”

USCIS officers would be crucial to the implementation of immigration reform if the current bill was passed; USCIS handles the applications of immigrants who want to enter the United States and would be charged with processing the applications for amnesty for the at least 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States.

In a statement announcing his group’s decision to join the ICE Council and others, Palinkas said Gang of Eight members did not consult his officers when crafting the bill. As a result, Palinkas argues, the bill “fails to address some of the most serious concerns the USCIS Council has about the current system which Congress must address.”

Specifically, Palinkas said under President Barack Obama’s administration, USCIS officers are currently “pressured to rubber stamp applications instead of conducting diligent case review and investigation.”

“The culture at USCIS encourages all applications to be approved, discouraging proper investigation into red flags and discouraging the denial of any applications,” Palinkas said. “USCIS has been turned into an ‘approval machine.’” Palinkas argues the Gang of Eight bill does nothing to fix this problem.

Additionally, Palinkas argues that the bill does not fix current administration policy that treats immigrants applying for entry into the United States as “customers” of the American government.

“A new USCIS computer system to screen applications known as ‘Transformation’ has proven to be a disaster as the agency has spent upwards of $2 billion for a system that would eventually allow an alien--now referred to as a ‘customer’ under current USCIS policy--to upload their own information via the internet for adjudication purposes,” Palinkas said. “To date, only one form can be accepted into the program that has been in the making for close to 10 years.”

Palinkas also notes that the Gang of Eight bill does nothing to fix the failures under the current administration for different agencies to coordinate, or de-conflict, on cases involving specific illegal immigrants. “USCIS has created an almost insurmountable bureaucracy which often prevents USCIS adjudications officers from contacting and coordinating with ICE agents and officers in cases that should have their involvement,” Palinkas wrote. “USCIS officers are pressured to approve visa applications for many individuals ICE agents have determined should be placed into deportation proceedings.”

Yet another issue the bill does not address, Palinkas notes, is a “secretive panel” that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano created that often denies immigration law officers’ requests to enforce the law. “USCIS officers who identify illegal aliens that, in accordance with law should be placed into immigration removal proceedings before a federal judge, are prevented from exercising their authority and responsibility to issue Notices To Appear (NTAs),” Palinkas claims. 

“In the rare case that an officer attempts to issue an NTA, it must first be approved by a secretive panel created under DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, which often denies the officer’s request," Palinkas explains. "Illegal aliens are then permitted to remain in the United States as USCIS officers are not able to take action or contact ICE agents for assistance.”

Perhaps most importantly, Palinkas argues that the current political leadership at his agency holds the belief that USCIS's role is not to serve America or Americans; rather, he claims they believe that USCIS is supposed to serve the illegal immigrants and the immigration lawyers who come through the doors of the agency on a regular basis. 

“The attitude of USCIS management is not that the Agency serves the American public or the laws of the United States, or public safety and national security, but instead that the agency serves illegal aliens and the attorneys which represent them,” Palinkas said. “While we believe in treating all people with respect, we are concerned that this agency tasked with such a vital security mission is too greatly influenced by special interest groups—to the point that it no longer properly performs its mission.”

Palinkas also notes that under the current law and system, USCIS reports a 99.5 percent approval rating for illegal immigrants seeking legal residency inside the United States. He said that high percentage began with President Obama’s and Secretary Napolitano’s new “deferred action” policy unveiled last summer. In addition, over the past year, Palinkas said USCIS has waived more than $200 million in fees from illegal immigrants seeking legal status.


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