Director Francis Cissna discusses vision for USCIS

USCIS office in Georgia
A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service office in Georgia. Image: Gulbenk.

USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna sat down with Jessica M. Vaughan, Director of Policy Studies, Center for Immigration Studies, on 16 August, to talk ‘legal immigration challenges’. During the discussion, Cissna outlined his vision for his agency.

Adjudicate, adjudicate, adjudicate

“USCIS, its job, its mission, is to adjudicate,” said Cissna. “That is the service that we provide. We adjudicate. We adjudicate petitions. We adjudicate applications and requests for immigration benefits. That’s what we do.

“And we should be doing this lawfully, so in compliance with the will of Congress, because this mission that we have to adjudicate is something conferred upon us by the people acting through Congress, through the law, to carry out this function, to administer the legal immigration program.”

The USCIS, he said, must also act efficiently and fairly. “ I have always believed this just as a – as a citizen, not just as an immigration professional – that all immigration benefit applications or petitions or requests of whatever they are should be treated the same.”

“Everybody should be treated the same. Everybody should get the same level of quality handling of their case or matter. So what we do should be fair.”

USCIS Serving the people

Related to the issue of fairness, said Cissna, is the issue of who do USCIS serves. And on this question he believes there’s been misunderstanding over the years.

“I think it’s a natural – people kind of naturally fall into the belief that the individuals that we serve are the people that we interact with every day when we take applications or petitions. I don’t think we serve them. We serve the people.

“We serve the American people, who have conferred upon the agency a special mission through the Congress to administer these immigration laws. We owe the people that we interact with, the people who are applying to us, the people who are – the companies and the people that are applying to us and seeking benefits…” he continued.

“So if the way that we’re administering the lawful immigration programs does not comport with that, with the law, then we’re not doing our mission.”

According to Cissna, understanding immigration reforms through the filter of the law is critical to understanding the ‘why’. “Things that may look difficult or controversial because such-and-such benefit is being looked at with greater scrutiny or the other, it’s not – we’re not doing that for any other reason than to comport the actions of our agency with the law. That’s what it comes down to.”

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