AILA Public Statements, Press Releases

AILA Urges Strict Congressional Oversight Over Any Emergency Appropriations for USCIS

5/20/20 AILA Doc. No. 20052036.

Washington, DC – The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) urges congressional appropriators to demand accountability, conduct strict oversight, and ensure conditions are met before agreeing to a request by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for $1.2 billion. The USCIS request would address a shortfall that is largely attributable to the agency’s own fiscal mismanagement and policy decisions designed to deliberately erect barriers for individuals seeking to apply for immigration benefits.

AILA President Marketa Lindt stated, “AILA believes that Congress should appropriate temporary funding to USCIS only if it includes safeguards related to transparency, accountability, and efficiency. It is clear that USCIS, an agency that only a few years ago had significant budget surpluses, has run itself into the ground through its own policies and inefficient processes. Without providing guardrails around such appropriations, the agency’s mismanagement will continue. Congress needs to use the power of the purse and its oversight responsibility to require a return to more efficient processing and accountability. The agency needs to be held accountable to those employers and individuals whose mission it is to serve, many of whom pay substantial fees for the processing of their filings.”

AILA Executive Director Benjamin Johnson added, “We recognize the vital role that USCIS plays in administering the legal immigration system and that its career staff have been working tirelessly through this crisis. AILA is committed to identifying workable solutions that will ensure USCIS is managed properly and in a manner that is consistent with its congressional mandate to adjudicate benefits efficiently and fairly. AILA has reached out repeatedly to the agency offering recommendations and solutions that would enable the agency to pull itself up by its own bootstraps to generate income and implement cost-savings measures. That’s why AILA supports the bi-partisan Case Backlog and Transparency Act of 2020, H.R 5971, and urges Congress to pass this much needed legislation along with other measures to get the agency back on track.”

Conditions to receive funding should include:

  • Measures to ensure USCIS spending is transparent and accountable.
  • Implementation of cost-efficient adjudication processes by eliminating unnecessary and burdensome adjudication hurdles, such as reinstituting the deference policy, giving adjudicators discretion of when to require in-person interviews and reusing previously captured biometrics for all form types.
  • Mandating that USCIS fees should only be spent on meeting its statutory mandate, rather than transferring funds to enforcement agencies.
  • Plans to generate income streams by reinstituting premium processing and facilitating the filing of applications and petitions.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.