Hispanic Dems probe immigration agency on internal oversight division

A group of Hispanic lawmakers is demanding details on an alleged plan to create a new division that would police caseworkers in the federal agency that oversees visas and residency permits. 
Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) members, led by Vice Chair Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) wrote United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Francis Cissna on Wednesday requesting more information on the new division.
“The Trump administration’s disregard for immigrant communities has bled into the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services operations. Due to its often unfair vetting processes, altered mission statement, and policing of its own caseworkers, it’s critical that Congress maintains strong oversight and highlights troubling missteps,” said Castro.
According to a Washington Post report published Friday, USCIS is moving resources to an as-yet-unannounced Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).
Jonathan Withington, a spokesman for USCIS, denied that personnel had been reassigned to an OPR, and said “no final decisions” had been made regarding the creation of such a division within USCIS.
Still, CHC members ask in the letter why an OPR is necessary, how it would evaluate and reprimand caseworkers, and how the agency will evaluate the level of leniency given in assessing immigration applications.
In the original report, an unnamed USCIS official said the division’s creation was seen internally as a crackdown on employees who were “too forgiving” in the adjudication process.
The letter called the proposed internal office another example of “harmful” changes to USCIS under Cissna.
“We are concerned that USCIS is considering this new internal office in light of the harmful changes USCIS has already proposed to lawful immigration numbers and to its mission statement,” it reads.
Under Cissna, the agency changed its mission statement to remove references to recipients of its services — foreigners applying for immigration benefits — as its “customers” and instead focus on the agency’s role in administering the “nation’s lawful immigration system” and “protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.”
“The mission statement better conveys and expresses what we do and who we serve. It’s indisputable we’re a nation of immigrants, but that concept doesn’t necessarily need to be in an operational mission statement,” said Worthington.
Tags border security immigrants Immigration Joaquin Castro Trump administration United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
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