In announcing its new mission statement, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services resumed the tenor of its former one, which described the United States as a “nation of immigrants.” The new mission statement is: “USCIS upholds America’s promise as a nation of welcome and possibility with fairness, integrity, and respect for all we serve.” The accompanying statement provided further assurance of how the agency views its work: “The work of USCIS makes the possibility of America a reality for immigrants, the communities and economies they join, and the nation as a whole. At USCIS, we know that every time we grant an immigration or naturalization benefit, we are fostering the opportunity to help us build a stronger America. And when we offer refuge to those in need of protection we are living up to our nation’s highest ideals.”
The prior administration did everything it could to prevent America from becoming a reality for immigrants. It canned the “nation of immigrants” language and replaced it with the following: “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.” Any individual or employer who applied for an immigration benefit under that coyly worded statement might beg to differ with whether applications were “fairly” adjudicated.
The Biden administration certainly has its share of challenges and much work to do. Restoring the USCIS mission statement, however, sets a positive tone and validates the shift in adjudicatory practice. Processing times for basic applications, such as Employment Authorization Documents for work and Advance Parole for travel remain absurdly long, yet local USCIS offices are managing to operate despite the pandemic and showing tremendous efficiency. Returning to the prior practice of deferring to previous approvals when adjudicating a renewal request also is a welcome shift back to something approaching normal. We’re still building a more perfect union, but there are glimmers of hope that we are back on track.