Top Officials within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are pressuring rank-and-file officers to quickly approve immigrants' visa applications, sometimes against the officers' will, according to a report by the Office of the Inspector General.
The report details the immense pressure immigration service officers are under to rubber-stamp visa applications, sometimes while overlooking concerns about fraud, eligibility or security.
One-quarter of the 254 officers surveyed said they have been pressured to approve questionable cases, sometimes "against their will".
Senior USCIS officials said the pressure has heightened after the Obama administration appointed Alejandro Mayorkas as director in 2009, who brought the mantra "get to yes" to the agency.
The new leadership and career agency employees disputed over when to afford the benefit of the doubt, which lead to a whistle-blower investigation into a senior employee and ultimately the agency wide Inspector General Agency which produced the report.
At least five agency veterans seen as being too tough on applicants were either demoted or given the choice between demotion and relocation. These kinds of threats have caused lower-level employees to fall in line.
The report found that 14 percent of respondents had serious concerns that employees who focused on fraud or ineligibility were evaluated unfairly. The report also found that supervisors would violate agency rules by taking cases away from an unwilling officer and assigning them to someone else.
Recommendations for improvements in the report include raising the burden of proof and doing away with the informal and special appeals practices, which immigration lawyers would argue lengthens the process.
Immigration attorneys say that the process already takes up to two years. They also complained that officers already have high standards and are just looking for a reason to deny a case.
Immigration attorneys and proponents of immigration reform note the open dialogue with Alejandro Mayorkas. According to the Inspector General's report, this oppeness lead to the perception that private immigration attorneys were running the agency. The report cited emails in which individual cases were granted special review after private attornies complained to management.
Updated: Wed, Jan 11th 2012 @ 11:45am EST