America is still a Nation of Immigrants By Michael Joseph on April 27, 2018

On February 22nd, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) director L. Francis Cissna issued an internal employee memo confirming that the agency’s mission statement had been altered, eliminating any reference to the United States being a “nation of immigrants.”

The original mission statement created in 2005 stated, “USCIS secures 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.” But following Cissna’s edit, the statement now reads, “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.”

Following the release of the revamped mission statement, members of the immigrant community and their supporters were quick to point out that Cissna, a Trump appointee, seems to be promoting an agenda that reflects the Trump administration’s skeptitical and often hard –line stance on immigration, rather than our countries long held embrace of immigrant. Even though Cissna described the revision as a “simple, straightforward statement” that “clearly defines the agency’s role in our country’s lawful immigration system and the commitment we have to the American people.” The real problem is that Cissna’s edits to the mission statement clearly reflect the policy changes that have been underway since the moment President Trump took office.

Actions taken over by the USCIS in the past year, not only include increased scrutiny of petitions for foreign national workers, adding layers of bureaucracy to the already complex lawful permanent residency process, but has changed the asylum application process to discourage people from seeking safe haven in the United States.  This is a far cry from the American values expressed by poet Emma Lazarus and engraved on the plinth upon which the Statue of Liberty stands: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”  This statute which sits in New York harbor has long been a symbol that has welcomed generations of immigrants who passed throught New York's iconic Ellis Island.

President John F. Kennedy’s book, “A Nation of Immigrants,” published posthumously in 1964, summarizes how immigrants helped to shape our nation and advocates for the importance of liberalized immigration laws in maintaining our place at the center of the world’s stage. Perhaps the agency might recognize America’s values as ones that include the contributions of immigrants to our national identity, and to our destiny as a unique world power.

Our New York immigration lawyers are committed to assisting immigrants obtain legal status in the United States in every legal manner.

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