Finding A Way To “Yes”

Author: on 10/18/2010


Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is not happy.

He wasn’t always that way.  In fact, if you look at his website you’ll see that not long ago he was smiling at his constituents back in Iowa.

Why is he so mad?  Well, I think it started last summer when he got his hands on an unsigned draft USCIS memorandum which showed someone in the agency had the audacity to think through ways in which USCIS could apply the dysfunctional immigration law in a functional way.  The Senator wasn’t impressed that the government was actually thinking creatively.  All he saw was “backdoor amnesty.”

Now it seems he is upset because some agency insiders told him they were being pressured by the leaders of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services into granting too many visa petitions which risks letting fraudsters and other ne’er-do-wells into the country.  That has Grassley so livid he issued a press release and wrote a letter to Janet Napolitano the Secretary of Homeland Security demanding an immediate investigation of “USCIS visa approval policies” by the Office of Inspector General.

Senator Chuck Grassley today asked the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Inspector General who oversees the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to address evidence from statements made by immigration officers that senior U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services leaders are putting pressure on employees to approve more visa applications, even if the applications might be fraudulent or the applicant is ineligible.

Grassley claims the information emanates from agency “whistleblowers” who are upset about the goings on at the California Service Center, which specializes in temporary professional visas, including those for scientific researchers, physicians, engineers, teachers, artists and international executives and managers.

Grassley first raised concerns over U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services visa policy after whistleblower accusations that supervisors directed staff at the California Service Center to “find a way” to approve visa applications and expressed a desire to “instruct generosity” when processing immigration benefits.  Since then, additional agency staff has come forward with allegations of retaliation and pressure asserted by leadership.

This doesn’t sound good.  But can Grassley be sure it’s true?

The problem, as I see it, is that Grassley has only heard from a small group of insiders.  If Grassley really wants to get a picture of USCIS visa approval policies he should file a couple of visa petitions with USCIS himself and see what happens.  I imagine Grassley could start out with a petition for a highly specialized foreign engineer whose rare skills are needed for the success of a critical U.S. infrastructure project.  A couple of weeks after he files the petition with the USCIS Grassley will undoubtedly receive a ten-page Request for Evidence from the agency threatening to deny the petition if he doesn’t prove “engineering” is a profession, provide evidence of the company’s ability to pay prevailing wages, send a list of contracts and invoices for the past year, provide a schedule of proposed worksites and supervisors, offer a breakdown of the engineer’s job duties, including the percentage of time devoted to each specific duty, and on and on and on.  At that point Grassley will see for himself that despite what the USCIS “whistleblowers” might be whispering in his ear, visa applicants usually have to jump through hoop after hoop to “find a way” to the USCIS’ so-called “generosity.”

Next, Grassley should file a visa extension request for a foreign company that opened a U.S. branch last year and, after USCIS approval, transferred a key executive to oversee the U.S. operation.  He should be sure to pick a company that has shown a healthy profit in its first year in America, created jobs for U.S. workers, and successfully met the goals of its U.S. business plan.  Grassley will be stunned when USCIS denies the visa petition—despite the immediate job loss to U.S. workers—based on grounds that don’t exist in the law.

In short, I suspect that if Grassley’s petitions landed on the desks of the very same USCIS “whistleblowers” that are fueling his anger, he would quickly see how the “generosity” he decries in his letter to Napolitano is in fact sorely lacking within the USCIS benefits bureaucracy.

The truth, if Grassley is interested, is that a “culture of no” continues to poison too many USCIS adjudications.  Unfortunately, what Grassley doesn’t seem to fathom is that a USCIS culture of “finding a way” to “yes” is another way of saying “say yes if the applicant has shown he or she is eligible by a ’preponderance of the evidence’.”  That means that applicants are required to prove they are deserving of an immigration benefit, such as a visa or employment authorization, but the law says that if it is more likely than not that a benefit is deserved, it should be granted. Unfortunately, in reality, deserving immigrants are turned away from our shores every day as the result of improper decision-making by USCIS “insiders.”

But Grassley may be right about one thing.  It is high time for an OIG investigation of USCIS decision-making.  In fact he’s spot on.  A full investigation would likely reveal an abandonment of the rule of law in favor of entrenched biases, and a propensity to apply the fraud label to every typographical error and disagreement of perspective.

If Grassley is concerned about helping Iowa and the rest of the nation jumpstart this jobless recovery he shouldn’t defend chronic bureaucratic opposition to meaningful agency reform.  To the contrary, Grassley should enthusiastically encourage all government leaders who have the courage to work internally within their agencies and externally with stakeholders to promote transparency, openness, and meaningful dialogue.  America’s leaders are obligated to call for change and to prevent researchers, entrepreneurs, innovators and academics from being further stymied by those who look for a way to get to “no.”

8 Comments

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  4. AW says:

    I wish they just had a culture of “do your job,” because they have been going way beyond their authority in looking for ways to deny. If they think there is fraud – they have tons of money to investigate that. Of course the US government has also inested greatly in investigating terrorism, so let them do their job on that. But instead USCIS is denying petitions on specious bases to avoid having to allege fraud. Do your job! You cannot guess at who is committing fraud and who is a terrorist, and then deny a completely approvable petition. I do not want to see petitions being approved if they are not properly approvable under the laws and regulations, nor do I want to see petitions denied for fake reasons. If you think the law needs to be changed, bring it to Congress! Grassley will surely file a bill for you. If the bill is not passed, it’s because the majority of politicians elected by the majority of citizens hae decided that the bill is not good for this country. You do not have the authority to second-guess them.

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