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You’ve Got Mail: America’s Broken Immigration Agency at Work

11 May 2010 No Comment

Under a bombardment of condemnation, Arizona has taken action to address illegal immigration and is fighting back by telling Washington to “do your job.” Meanwhile, on Sunday President Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Justice Department was “considering” a federal lawsuit against Arizona’s new immigration law.

How did the immigration crisis occur? It happened because Washington didn’t do their job and secure the borders — and because under both Republican and Democratic leadership, the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), formerly the Immigration Naturalization Services (INS), ran amok.

If Americans want to see how broken and incompetent America’s immigration agency is, and get a glimpse of their future in the hands of bureaucrats, be it in healthcare or elsewhere as government takeovers persists, take a look at what legal immigration looks like. This could be your future at the mercy of big government.

The first step towards legalization typically begins at the USCIS’ mail room when lawful immigrants mail their application and filing fees with the reasonable expectation that it will be processed only to discover that is not always the case. Why? Because at the USCIS, the basic task of processing mail can be like spinning the roulette wheel in Las Vegas.

According to a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), January 2009, report entitled Federal User Fees: Additional Analysis and Timely Reviews Could Improve Immigration and Naturalization User Fee Design and USCIS Operations, “Contractors perform all operations for incoming and outgoing mail at the [USCIS]… they are paid according to a fixed unit price for each piece of mail processed… and the USCIS has not developed an agency wide standard operating procedure for validating the contractors’ count… In most cases…USCIS cannot verify that it is receiving the services that it is paying for…”

Why aren’t all applications accounted for to ensure they will be properly processed?

The GAO report explains why. “The Vermont Service Center’s “Incoming Mail Count Instruction” document and the Nebraska Service Center’s standard operating procedure for incoming mail do not require USCIS employees to validate the contractors’ incoming mail counts. California Service Center employees… do not validate 100 percent of the incoming mail counts because a manual counting process would be inefficient and disruptive…

The Texas Service Center is the exception… USCIS employees randomly select samples of “tubs” of incoming mail multiple times each week, count the pieces of mail contained in the tubs and compare their counts to the contractor’s counts for these tubs… over the course of the month, service center employees ensure that they review an adequate sample size, aggregate the difference between their sample counts and the contractor’s sample counts, multiply this difference by a factor that accounts for the ratio between the sample size and the total amount of incoming mail, and apply the result to adjust the contractor’s monthly total count for all incoming mail. GAO has previously reported that a basic tenet of government procurement is that before payment is made, the purchasing agency must verify that the services have been received in accordance with contractual requirements…Without doing so, USCIS may be paying its contractors for services that it has not received.”

Read about the USCIS losing files here.

Welcome to the first step in legal immigration.

What happens to these applications piled up in “tubs,” that may or may not be counted assuming they are not lost? Applications may sit collecting dust in storage bins. As the GAO report tells us, “At the Texas Service Center… [they] were stored outside in six rented 10-by-40-foot containers, double-locked, and monitored by a full-time security guard.”

Read more about some of USCIS backlog troubles here.

And when the USCIS faces budget problems, what do lawmakers do? They increase filing fees and create more chaos at the troubled agency. In 2007, for instance, when fees increased an “average of 86 percent,” the USCIS’ backlog ballooned because there was a “surge in application volume as applicants attempted to submit…before the fee increase took effect…”

Ironically it is the filing fees legal immigrants pay that fund the bulk of the USCIS’ $2.6 billion budget. That might explain why the agency does not decline applications although they can’t process them properly for years—if ever. Ostensibly, an efficient and competent agency with clear quotas, rules, and a sign outside that says, “Your application won’t be properly processed for X-X+ years –if ever. Come back later,” plus secure borders might help reduce the illegal alien problem.

As people who have dealt with USCIS can confirm, Homeland Security Assistant Inspector General Frank Deffer told Congress the truth when he recently said that the USCIS would not be equipped for “a few years” to process the flood of applications that a path of citizenship would create—another Washington so-called solution that is in the works.

As countless legal immigrants know, thanks to Washington’s leadership, legal immigration is a nifty sound-bite but it can mean living in a harrowing nightmare of uncertainties for years or be nothing more than a heart-wrenching exercise in futility.

The immigration crisis was created by government’s dereliction of duty. America this may be a glimpse of your healthcare future in the hands of government bureaucrats.

Read some legal immigrants nightmare experiences here.

Read more: Immigration Reform: Terrorists apply for Green Cards