Immigration agency chief defends striking ‘nation of immigrants’ from mission statement

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director L. Francis Cissna on Wednesday defended striking “nation of immigrants” from his agency’s mission statement, arguing that his agency ultimately serves the American people.

“Who does the agency serve?” Cissna asked at an event in Washington, D.C., according to a report by the Washington Examiner. “I think there been a misunderstanding of that over the years … People kind of naturally fall into the belief that the individuals that we serve are the people that we interact with every day when we take applications or petitions.”


“I don’t think that we serve them. We serve the people,” Cissna continued. “We serve the American people who have conferred upon the agency a special mission through the Congress to administer these immigration laws.”

His reasoning was consistent with statements Cissna previously expressed in an email to USCIS staff about the importance of the changes.

“Referring to applicants and petitioners for immigration benefits, and the beneficiaries of such applications and petitions, as ‘customers’ promotes an institutional culture that emphasizes the ultimate satisfaction of applicants and petitioners, rather than the correct adjudication of such applications and petitions according to the law,” Cissna said.

He continued, “All applicants and petitioners should, of course, always be treated with the greatest respect and courtesy, but we can’t forget that we serve the American people.”

When the statement was amended in February, a USCIS official told The Hill that the changes reflect Cissna’s guiding principles for the agency, including a focus on protecting American workers and guarding America.

The new mission statement reads: “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.”

The original 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.”

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