"Pervasive and Serious Problems" at USCIS

The Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (CIS Ombudsman) provides recommendations for resolving individual and employer problems with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). As mandated by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 § 452, CISOMB is an independent DHS office that reports directly to the DHS Deputy Secretary.

CIS Ombudsman recently issued a report that identified “pervasive and serious problems” within USCIS, which is charged with, among other tasks, processing immigrant visa petitions, naturalization petitions, and asylum and refugee applications.

One of the major problems identified by the Ombudsman office concerned the severe backlogs caused by the surge of 3 million new applications in the summer of 2007. The report stated:

Better internal and external communication at USCIS and with other agencies, and an examination of long-term planning, may have alleviated some of the pressures from the surge. Moreover, long-term fixes – including fundamental reforms regarding a fee-funded agency, and updating an underdeveloped and outdated information technology and case management system – have not been implemented.

Further, USCIS issued a 2007 fee increase articulating reduced processing times, among other goals. However, customers have expressed frustration that higher fees have not reduced processing times or otherwise improved customer service. USCIS has testified that it is unable to meet these goals because of the summer surge.

The report also identified FBI name check delays, an inadequate case management system, inconsistent customer service, and ineffective coordination and communication within USCIS as major problems plaguing the agency.

For the full report, click here.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund