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  • Questions for Secretary Napolitano: Citizenship and Immigration Services

    DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano is tentatively scheduled to testify before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee about DHS immigration enforcement policies on May 6, 2009. Given Secretary Napolitano’s novel interpretations of federal law, the Heritage Foundation will be posting a series of questions (and suggested answers) for the Secretary. Past questions can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

    What are the challenges currently facing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and what changes does the Obama Administration plan to make to tackle these problems?

    Reforming U.S. immigration policy is one aspect of reform. However, until the agency tasked with processing incoming immigrants is reformed, little improvement will be made. As of now, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) could not handle a surge of legal immigrants, in part because it has a faulty budget model based on application fees. For USCIS to be responsive to immigration reform, its revenue structure should be changed to give the USCIS more flexibility. This can be accomplished by investing in workplace enforcement and by establishing a national trust fund to pay for programs for which the USCIS cannot charge fees (for example, amnesty applications and naturalization of military personnel).

    The pay-as-you-go model that Congress has imposed on the USCIS is not working because not everyone is paying and those that are paying are not contributing in an equitable manner. Simply raising fees perpetuates an unfair and inefficient system. The Obama Administration should seek to:

    Establish a national trust fund to cover the programs for which the USCIS cannot charge a fee (e.g., amnesty applications and natural­ization of military personnel). It makes no sense for Congress to require the USCIS to process applications or petitions of immigrants without providing the funds to cover the costs of those activities. More critically, it is fundamentally unfair for Congress to place the burden of those costs on the backs of other immigrants seeking entry into America, many of whom can barely afford to pay for their own costs.
    Use the fees to support the main purpose for which they are collected. Rather than being used to fund the majority of USCIS operations, fees should be used to support services like legal immigration, naturalization, and assimilation, thereby strengthening the naturalization process.
    Critically examine calls to increase fees. At a time when the United States is making a concerted effort to encourage those who wish to come to this country to use legal means, substantially raising fees might achieve the unintended consequence of deterring individuals from complying with U.S. immigration laws.
    Improving Processes. Despite five years of effort and over $500 million, the USCIS still has not managed to overcome outdated practices, inefficiencies, and inadequate technology. The result is an unprecedented backlog of applications and petitions. Similarly, for security purposes, the USCIS must eliminate such processes as mailing green cards without receipt verification so that multiple green cards are not used for fraudulent or criminal activity.

    Another aspect of the problem is the USCIS’s failure to modernize effectively beyond such legacy systems as the Computer Linked Application Information Management System.

    For more Heritage research on USCIS reform, check out Next Steps for Immigration Reform and Workplace Enforcement.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to Questions for Secretary Napolitano: Citizenship and Immigration Services

    1. Greg Meyer, Blooming says:

      Hi, Love the foundation. Series of questions not Serious. Maybe a series of serious questions! Have them fast typing technogeeks fix it real quick like.

      Keep it up.

    2. Ravi Dasari, NewJers says:


      Nice foundation.USCIS needs to improve a lot interms of efficiency.Green Card process is too lengthy.It should encourange legal immigrants rather than illegals.

      People have lost their hopes on getting green cards.USCIS making legal immigrants life miserable.Time has come to fix the broken immigration system and USCIS.

    3. Arun Balwani, Hillia says:

      Advantages for speedy green card processing for H1B visa holders – a boost to the US economoy

      • Retention of US work experience and domain knowledge of the H1B worker (legal immigrant).

      • Immigrants can choose to be a direct employee with the Employer – thereby reducing several layers of employers (staffing company) which would lead to more wealth creation

      • Immigrants would like to go for higher education in US Universities – leading to an increase in revenue for the Colleges and Universities

      • Immigrants will start to retain their savings in US Banks and will not transfer money outside the country

      • Immigrants are likely to transfer all their money from banks in home country to US resident banks

      • Immigrants will start spending more dollars and there will be an overall buying spree. This will indirectly help to uplift the profits in various retail US businesses – again a boost to the economy.

      • Immigrants will increase investments in USA – i.e. start new business opportunities, purchase property assets, invest in stocks and shares.

      • Many immigrants (H1B Visa holders) normally avoid travel outside the country because of their Visa status. On receipt of Green Card – they will be free to travel to most of the countries including their home country without any restriction, since the hassle of obtaining a Visa or Stamping will not bother them. This will boost our travel and tourism industry.

    4. Vegabellavista says:

      I'm a USC and I found a wonderful man that I married but he does not have is papers. In Oct 2002 I filed for his paper in Oct of 2007 we recieved our first visa appointment and Oct 30 had our waiver appointment. In Jan of 2009 we recieved a letter stating that my application was denied because we did not meet the (Extreme Hardship) that the information that I provided showed the regular hardship of having a spouse out of the home. So June of 2009 was able to file for a second chance visa appointment and in Aug 2009 we will get a second chance waiver appointment. My hubby had been hear in the US for 13yr. never had any problems with the law. for the past 10yr that we have been together he and I have paid taxes. there are so many families going through the same thing families are having to give up everything they have work for and move to another country or move to the boarder in order to be some what closer to their families.

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