Speed Kills at USCIS

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By Michael W. Cutler

Mike is a Senior Fellow with CAPS and retired INS Senior Special Agent. During his 30-year career with the INS he rotated through all of the squads within the Investigations Branch. He was assigned to the Unified Intelligence Division of the DEA and for 10 years was assigned, as an INS Senior Special Agent, to the Organized Crime, Drug Enforcement Task Force. He has testified at numerous hearings conducted by committees and subcommittees of the House and Senate and provided testimony to the 9/11 Commission.

He hosts "The Michael Cutler Hour" on USA Talk Radio Fridays at 7 p.m. (EST) and is frequently interviewed by broadcast media on various aspects of immigration issues, especially the nexus to national security.

The writer's views are his own.

November 1, 2013

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is one of the component agencies under the aegis of the DHS, an agency that has proven to be so inept and devoid of integrity and vital resources that I have come to refer to it as the Department of Homeland Surrender.

USCIS is charged with adjudicating applications for a variety of immigration benefits, such as permitting foreign students to change schools, providing aliens with lawful status and Green Cards, and conferring U.S. citizenship to aliens through the naturalization process.

Also, USCIS manages the Obama Administration's pet project, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Thus far, USCIS has adjudicated hundreds of thousands of applications without in-person interviews. The program has an approval rate in excess of 90%.

It is estimated that each year USCIS processes more than 6 million applications for immigration benefits, including more than 600,000 applications for naturalization. The pressure to keep up with the massive influx of applications means that the priority for the beleaguered adjudications officers is to approve applications as often as possible.

It is important to understand that it takes just minutes to approve an application, but hours or days to deny one. There is an inverse relationship between speed and accuracy. Further, there are scant resources available for field investigations to uncover fraud. As more aliens succeed in gaming the process and get away with fraud, more aliens are encouraged to file applications based on fraud, knowing that the likelihood their crimes will be discovered is nearly zero, and even if discovered, no action will be taken against them.

As just one example, on April 13, 2013, ICE reported that a New York City lawyer had been sentenced to five years in prison for running an immigration fraud scheme. It’s believed the fraudulent operations went on for more than a decade and involved at least 25,000 alien clients who conspired with the lawyer’s firm to defraud the system. According to the ICE news release:

Earl Seth David, 45, ran a scheme in which he and his co-conspirators applied for legal status for tens of thousands of illegal aliens based on phony claims that they had been sponsored for employment by U.S. employers.

David was indicted October 2011, and extradited to the United States from Canada in January 2012. He pleaded guilty in April 2012 to one count of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

It is mind-boggling that after all of the potential counts to his indictment, David was permitted to plead guilty to just one count each of immigration fraud and mail fraud when it is believed that he committed thousands of separate crimes.

This next quote is no less mind-boggling:

David continued to operate the scheme even after he was suspended from the practice of law in New York State in March 2004.

He fled to Canada in 2006 after learning that his firm was under federal criminal investigation. However, illicit profits from the scheme continued to be funneled to him in Canada...

How in the world did USCIS continue to accept and process applications from the offices of an attorney whose license had been suspended and who was operating outside the United States?

Additionally, there was no mention of any efforts to identify, locate or arrest any of the thousands of aliens who successfully gamed the immigration system. The 12 individuals who have been named thus far did not include any of the aliens who benefited from their crimes.

As for other examples, we need look no further than the 9/11 attack that killed nearly 3,000 people and the methods of immigration fraud used – and not identified by the governing agencies – in the years leading up to that event. The 9/11 Commission showed a clear nexus between immigration fraud and national security. Stated in the 9/11 Commission report:

…(T)he act of filing for an immigration benefit sufficed to permit the alien to remain in the country until the petition was adjudicated. Terrorists were free to conduct surveillance, coordinate operations, obtain and receive funding, go to school and learn English, make contacts in the United States, acquire necessary materials, and execute an attack.

It is clear that management at USCIS pushes speed over accuracy and consequently political expedience over national security. This is the same agency that would administer Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Mike Cutler hosts “The Michael Cutler Hour” on BlogTalk radio Friday evenings. On July 27, 2012 and April 5, 2013, Mike’s guest was former INS colleague, Jerry Casale, who retired from USCIS as an adjudications officer.  Listen to the two discussions for more on the plight of adjudicators who are expected to keep up with an applications backlog, and read Mike’s earlier post about the adjudications process.

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