No one needs me to cite statistics or opine on the fact that we are a nation based on immigration and that we as a nation have often struggled with lovingly embracing immigrants. Yet over the years, our laws and institutions have striven to embody and exemplify our best values, our welcoming spirit and our belief that we are open to those who desire to move from their homelands to ours.
H.R. 2407 the “United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Authorization Act”, which is currently being reviewed by Committees within the House – one of them being the House Education and the Workforce Committee – is a bill that does away with the presumption that immigrants come to America for positive reasons and chips away at the American belief that immigrants are a rich as well as strong element of our national fabric.
H.R. 2407 desires to establish a “United States Citizenship and Immigration Services” agency within the Department of Homeland Security – this bill does not create a new agency or change the Department it is under, there currently is a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency in the Department of Homeland Security, rather this bill changes the mission, the focus of the agency. The USCIS agency this bill creates would continue to perform all citizenship and immigration duties and would develop new policies, craft strategy, provide advisement and thus influence/dictate the official U.S. policies on citizenship and immigration. As noted it is the essence of the agency that would change, as evidenced by the mission statements of the current and the intended USCIS.
The current mission statement of the USCIS is, “Mission Statement… [the]USCIS will secure America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system” (https://www.uscis.gov/aboutus). This is a statement that upholds America as a nation of immigrations – that we are a beacon of hope and opportunity. This statement makes it clear that USCIS is primarily there for its customers, those aspiring to gain immigration and citizenship status. This statement is also crystal clear that it is the government’s duty to educate and teach the duties of American citizenship.
The strategic goals denoted on their website underscores this mission statement, “USCIS’ strategic goals include: Strengthening the security and integrity of the immigration system. Providing effective customer-oriented immigration benefit and information services. Supporting immigrants’ integration and participation in American civic culture. Promoting flexible and sound immigration policies and programs. Strengthening the infrastructure supporting the USCIS mission. Operating as a high-performance organization that promotes a highly talented workforce and a dynamic work culture” (https://www.uscis.gov/aboutus).
Contrast the values upheld in the current USCIS with those the new USCIS would espouse. The mission statement of the new USCIS is: “The mission of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is to efficiently adjudicate petitions and applications for immigration benefits for foreign nationals seeking lawful immigration status in the United States and for individuals seeking to become citizens of the United States in a manner that detects and prevents fraud, protects the jobs and working conditions of American workers, and ensures the national security and welfare of the American people” (italics added for emphasis) (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2407/text).
So to be clear, the presumption that America is a nation of immigrants is supplanted with presumptions that immigration fraud is widespread, that immigrants threaten US jobs and that the fact of being an immigrant means a person is a potential risk for the wellbeing of our nation and its residents. In the new USCIS the purpose of the agency is not help its customers navigate the system, the purpose is to protect America from the criminal, economic and terror threat inherent from immigrants. None of the presumptions within the new USCIS mission statement are supported by reality and it is mind boggling to truly take in what this mission statement implies (see end of the blog for links to information on the truthfulness of the presumptions).
Another core belief within the new USCIS is that those immigrating to the U.S. should lose their culture in exchange for American culture (which is of course not monolithic, but that does not seem to matter to the author of this bill). No longer would it be the focus of the USCIS to teach American civics and citizenship, but rather there would be an injunction for the agency to push the adoption of American culture “There is established within United States Citizenship and Immigration Services an Office of Citizenship. There shall be at the head of the Office of Citizenship a Chief who shall— promote instruction and training on citizenship responsibilities, as well as assimilation, for eligible aliens who are interested in becoming naturalized citizens of the United States” (italics added for emphasis) (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2407/text).
Assimilation is a term that may not be known by everyone but every student of multiculturalism knows the term all too well and every child of an immigrant has tasted it too. Assimilation is the process by which a minority culture is swallowed up by the dominant culture and thus the minority culture fractures or even disappears. It is what was done when Americans in power decided to round up the children of Native American tribes and send them to distant boarding schools, it is what caused waves of immigrants to not teach their children the heritage, traditions, language or customs of their distant homes and it has been shown to be of great psychological cost as well as damage to people. And while assimilation may not be a term known by those outside of the circles of psychology, social work, anthropology, social justice, etc… it is absolutely a term that anyone writing a bill for an immigration agency ought to know and steer clear of, unless of course they know exactly what the term means.
(In case you are curious, acculturation is the term that describes someone moving from one culture and learning a new culture thus becoming bi-cultural, having roots and ties to both heritages. Research shows that acculturation leads to the healthiest, most integrated immigrants. For a brief discussion on assimilation versus acculturation: http://pediaa.com/difference-between-assimilation-and-acculturation/. For lengthier discussions look at the writings of Derald Wing Sue: http://www.tc.columbia.edu/faculty/dw2020/ and Stanley Sue: https://www.paloaltou.edu/faculty/stanley-sue two brothers who are preeminent American psychologists on the issues of multiculturalism.)
To close, it is only the tiniest fraction of Americans who can claim to have no immigrants in their family tree and so why are we writing bills that stand in sharp contrast to what our foremothers and forefathers needed most when they arrived on these distant shores? Why are we attempting to craft a new United States Citizenship and Immigration Services that shrinks the open arms, the welcoming heart that our nation has aspired to be?
Information on immigration fraud is a bit difficult to find due in part to the complexity of defining the issue. There are two kinds of immigration fraud: document fraud also known as identity fraud and benefit fraud. Document fraud is falsely saying you are someone you are not in order to get around immigration laws while benefit fraud is lying and/or falsifying information in order to gain an immigration benefit one is not entitled to (https://www.ice.gov/identity-benefit-fraud). There is a fraud detection unit within the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency: https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/directorates-and-program-offices/fraud-detection-and-national-security/fraud-detection-and-national-security-directorate and an official page warning individuals on how to avoid being defrauded https://www.uscis.gov/avoid-scams. Official government Immigration Data & Statistics can be found at: https://www.dhs.gov/immigration-statistics
For information on the fact that immigrants do not threaten the jobs of native born or naturalized Americans: https://www.forbes.com/sites/artcarden/2015/08/28/how-do-illegal-immigrants-affect-american-workers-the-answer-might-surprise-you/#7aac6328771a, https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/01/06/do-immigrants-take-jobs-from-american-born-workers/an-aging-us-is-revitalized-by-immigrants, https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/01/06/do-immigrants-take-jobs-from-american-born-workers/immigrants-are-replacing-not-displacing-workers, http://www.factcheck.org/2015/01/all-u-s-jobs-did-not-go-to-immigrants/
For information on the fact that immigrants are not a threat to the well-being of native born or naturalized Americans: https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2016/06/immigrants-and-crime/486884/, https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/terrorism-immigration-risk-analysis, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/28/us/politics/a-sweeping-order-unlikely-to-reduce-terrorist-threat.html?_r=0, https://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2017-04-21/trumps-immigration-restrictions-will-hurt-americans