Immigration agency reverses Trump-era changes to its mission statement

The U.S. government agency in charge of granting visas, green cards and naturalizations changed its mission statement, a reversal of a Trump-era change that had spun the immigration service provider toward a focus on homeland security.

The new United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) mission statement reads, “USCIS upholds America’s promise as a nation of welcome and possibility with fairness, integrity, and respect for all we serve.”

USCIS Director Ur Jaddou announced the agency’s new mission in a statement Wednesday, saying “the United States is and will remain a welcoming nation that embraces people from across the world.” 

“At its core, USCIS is about delivering decisions to families, businesses, workers, and those seeking refuge in our country on their applications, petitions, requests, and appeals. This new mission statement reflects the inclusive character of both our country and this agency,” said Jaddou.

The inclusion of the phrases “nation of welcome and possibility” and “respect for all we serve” contrasts with the Trump-era statement that was implemented by then-USCIS Director Lee Francis Cissna in 2018.

“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,” read Cissna’s version of the mission statement.

The changes reflect political divisions about how immigration should be managed and to an extent the broader debate as to whether the United States should expand pathways for immigrants to legally enter the country.

The agency’s original mission statement, established in 2005, included the phrase “a nation of immigrants,” which was scrapped by Cissna.

The phrase did not make it back into the agency’s third mission statement, but the focus on services reflects the character Jaddou has tried to imbue into the agency.

It also comes amid debate as to how much federal funding should be spent on an agency that historically relied solely on immigration fees to survive.

Jaddou last week pleaded for more funding for the agency in order to clear a mounting visa backlog in part created by the coronavirus pandemic and in part by slowdowns and staff reassignments during the Trump administration.

“The work of USCIS makes the possibility of America a reality for immigrants, the communities and economies they join, and the nation as a whole. At USCIS, we know that every time we grant an immigration or naturalization benefit, we are fostering the opportunity to help us build a stronger America. And when we offer refuge to those in need of protection we are living up to our nation’s highest ideals,” said Jaddou in her statement Wednesday. 

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