DeportationsDHS IG critical of ICE deportation review process

Published 12 January 2012

DHS Inspector General’s report on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (ICE) handling of the review process of 300,000 pending deportation cases offers ammunition to critics of the administration’s immigration policies

A report made public earlier in the week by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) says that senior officials at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are pressuring employees to rubber-stamp applications for immigration benefits, despite concerns about fraud or ineligibility.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a non-profit organization calling for more restrictive immigration policies, says that the OIG’s conclusions also raise questions about whether similar pressures will be brought to bear on employees at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) as they undertake a review of some 300,000 pending deportation cases. These reviews are to be conducted over the next several months as the Obama administration seeks to dismiss cases it deems to be “low priority.”

The OIG conducted its investigation at the request of Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). FAIR summarizes the report’s conclusions to say that “under the current leadership the main objective of the visa application review process is to ‘get to yes,’ rather than to get it right” (these are FAIR’s words, not the IG’s). Some 25 percent of USCIS personnel interviewed by the OIG reported that they were asked by superiors to approve visa application that should have been denied, while 90 percent complained that they were not given the necessary time adequately to interview applicants for immigration benefits. According to Grassley’s office, USCIS officers who refuse to comply with demands to approve questionable visas face demotions or transfers.

The findings of the OIG are alarming. Not only is this administration putting its own political goals ahead of national interests and national security, but they are resorting to raw intimidation of USCIS professionals to achieve those ends,” stated Dan Stein, president of FAIR.

The same political operatives at the upper echelons of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) who are pressuring USCIS personnel to approve questionable, even fraudulent, visa applications are also in charge of ICE,” Stein noted. “There is every reason to believe that the same pressure to ‘get to yes,’ and get there in a hurry, will be applied to ICE officers as they determine which of the 300,000 pending deportation cases slated for review will be dismissed.”

FAIR says it has called for congressional action to block the Obama administration’s review of hundreds of thousands of deportation cases, including cutting off funding for that purpose. “There can be no question that this administration is working relentlessly to prevent meaningful enforcement of immigration laws enacted by Congress. Now the OIG’s investigation reveals that career professionals are being strong-armed into carrying out the administration’s political agenda. Congress has an obligation to halt the administration’s abuse of power and intimidation of government workers before the same pressures to ‘get to yes’ are brought to bear on ICE personnel,” Stein concluded.