The president of the union that represents Immigration Service Officers has sent a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) warning of the problems a mass amnesty bill would create for the agency that process immigration applications. Ken Palinkas said that officers are currently forced to "rubber-stamp applications and have been denied the resources and mission support necessary to carfully screen and vet each application." Palinkas warns that immigration reform would "overload the system."
Palinkas represents officers for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. They are tasked with approving applications for citizenship, which is part of the nation's national security efforts. He said the current process is a "threat to national security" and "costs taxpayers billions of dollars every year by failing to impose rigorous screening standards consistent with federal law."
Palinkas is urging Rep. Goodlatte to meet with USCIS officers and consider their concerns before the House moves forward on immigration legislation. Furthermore, he said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) statement from a 2013 speech would lead to an endless amnesty: "One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents," Cantor said. "It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children and who know no other home."
Palinkas said, "I am concerned by Congressman Cantor's position that citizenship for young illegal immigrants is based on 'the great founding principles of our country.' If this were true, that would mean that all future DREAMers have a right to amnesty, as every immigration law is bypassed and permanently void."
Here is the full text of Palinkas' letter to Rep. Goodlatte:
Dear Chairman Goodlatte:
USCIS Immigration Service Officers form the backbone of our nation's immigration system. These dedicated personnel are responsible for reviewing, assessing, screening, and approving countless millions of applications for legal status in the United States. They are also tasked with the enormous responsibility of determining whether applicants have what it takes to become an American citizen. They determine whether these applicants meet the criteria of what it means to call the United States "home," holding no other country above its most sacred ground. Over the years, these ISOs or adjudicators have been forced to rubber-stamp applications and have been denied the resources and mission support necessary to carefully screen and vet each application and the ultimate benefit and honor of naturalized citizenship.
This lapse is not only a threat to national security but costs taxpayers billions of dollars every year by failing to impose rigorous screening standards consistent with federal law. Recently, just this past year, the Union was successful in negotiating with the agency a new rating system called the Quality Driven Workplace Initiative. It is with great hope and aspiration that the Union believes this is a giant leap in the right direction as we seek quality above quantity in the work we perform. But only time will tell if we have been successful in this endeavor. It will all depend on whether or not the agency holds up its end of the bargain. Sadly, the rush forward with new legislative 'reforms' that would overload the system threatens to destroy these gains out of the gate.
It is with these problems in mind that I urge House Republicans, as strongly as possible, to include the concerns of USCIS personnel in their planned immigration principles. We need your support to strive towards our ultimate goal of adjudicating all immigration benefits with the utmost integrity, with the needed skills and training and with the safety and security of the United States above all else. Any immigration plan that fails to take our concerns into account will not succeed. I worry that you have made no attempt to work with or listen to USCIS officers in drafting these bills. Your plan, as explained in media stories and leaks, would grant citizenship to illegal immigrants through green cards while also expanding the number of work visas. This is a step in the wrong direction and flies in the face of what we are attempting to do. There is no quality here, only quantity. USCIS is not equipped to handle this workload, and due to political interference in its mission, is not empowered to deny admission to all those who should be denied due to ineligibility. We have become a visa clearinghouse for the world, rather than the first line of defense for a secure immigration system.
For instance, I was rather dismayed last week when I found out that Notices to Appear (whereby USCIS employees find grounds to compel immigration benefit seekers to appear before an Immigration Judge for a final ruling on their citizenship application) numbered around 100 nationwide! That's 100 out of millions. These numbers are ridiculously skewed in favor of lessening the amount of applicants who would otherwise be found to be deportable under current immigration law. It is yet another example of this administration's failure to enforce the law.
Lastly, I am concerned by Congressman Cantor's position that citizenship for young illegal immigrants is based on "the great founding principles of our country." If this were true, that would mean that all future DREAMers have a right to amnesty, as every immigration law is bypassed and permanently void. I hope, as the top member of the Judiciary panel, you would reject this language without hesitation.
It is especially my hope that Immigration Services Officers will be given a chance to work with House Republicans on their principles before any public release. We should not be denied the chance to share our expertise. We need to have our voices heard.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
President, National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council
Updated: Thu, Jan 30th 2014 @ 12:50pm EST