Immigration Law

USCIS Proposal Would Make It Harder For Congressional Staffers To Assist Immigrants

Betsy Woodruff, Daily Beast, Dec. 27, 2017 - "The Trump administration is poised to make it harder for members of Congress to help immigrants deal with the government, according to an agency official email sent to Hill staffers and reviewed by The Daily Beast. The email, sent Dec. 18 from a top official at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), says the agency will put new restrictions on how members of Congress can help immigrants looking to get green cards or citizenship. It indicates that the agency will soon be demanding extra forms in many circumstances, as well as requiring certified translations and notarized signatures. When asking for help from Congress, immigrants sign privacy waivers that let their congressional office reach out to USCIS on their behalf and report back to them. Those waivers also let congressional staff share what they learn with the immigrants’ families and lawyers. In many cases—especially when there’s a language barrier—congressional staff work solely with the immigrant’s family or lawyer. The changes USCIS appears poised to make—as laid out in the email to congressional staff working on immigration issues—would make it harder for members of Congress to do that work by adding dramatic increases in paperwork and red tape. In the email, Ronald Atkinson, the acting chief of USCIS’ legislative affairs office, wrote that the changes are designed to “help both USCIS and Congress handle inquiries in a more efficient and effective manner, while also protecting sensitive information.” In the name of efficiency, he added, USCIS would only accept privacy waivers that meet the following requirements:

-Contains a handwritten and notarized signature or signature made under penalty of perjury by the subject of the records, even if outside the United States. (Digital signatures are not acceptable.)

-Names only the congressional office as the authorized recipient.

-Includes a full translation of any non-English text, as well as the translator's certification of competence to translate from the foreign language into English.

-Is newly signed and dated for a follow-up question or status update request after the initial/previous inquiry received a meaningful and accurate response and has been closed for 30 days."