A union representing immigration officers sharpened its criticism of the Senate immigration bill Thursday, saying the proposal threatens national security.
In a letter to the eight senators who crafted immigration reform, the National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, which represents immigration adjudications officers and staff, put forth a laundry list of concerns with the legislation.
According to the union letter, “the proposal you have put forward hampers our ability to do our jobs, increases threats to national security, and ignores the dire problems afflicting our agency.”
The 12,000-member National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council and the 7,000-member National ICE Council representing immigration and customs officers and agents, have been particularly vocal in protesting the bill.
Their outspoken approach has caused some discomfort, though. Over breakfast earlier this week, some 250 members of the business community gathered in an Arlington, Va., hotel ballroom for an annual conference on immigration issues hosted by the American Council of International Personnel and Society for Human Resource Management. One of the attendees noted that he was uncomfortable with how vocal adjudicators had been in their opposition to immigration legislation.
“An adjudicator by joining the agency, does not relinquish his or her first amendment rights to opine,” said Alejandro Mayorkas, director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and the day’s keynote speaker. “And if the opinion is for or against comprehensive immigration reform, for example, I don’t necessarily view that as a partisan opinion as opposed to a policy opinion.”
In the latest batch of union concerns, Kenneth Palinkas, head of the union, said government agencies were ill-prepared to handle the increased workload if an immigration overhaul is passed.
The legislation “provides for a massive increase in the flow of [Citizenship and Immigration Services] casework while making no reforms to our broken adjudications process,” Mr. Palinkas wrote in the letter. “The result is predictable: if passed, [the bill] would lead to the rubber-stamping of millions of applications for both amnesty and future admissions, putting the public safety and the taxpayer at risk.”
“Why would the Senate pass a bill that makes it even more difficult for USCIS officers to identify, remove, or keep out public-safety threats?” the letter says.
Earlier this week, Mr. Mayorkas acknowledged there was still work to be done in streamlining the approval process for immigration applications. He said the agency has “failed the adjudicators” by failing to publish clear and consistent policies.
Still, Mr. Mayorkas had few reservations about being prepared to implement an immigration overhaul if it were to pass – even if it’s a complicated bill that brings a heavier workload.
“What might be perceived as a modest change in the law, actually could have very significant operational repercussions,” he said of the proposed overhaul. Even so, “we will be ready. We will implement it effectively and we will implement it on time.”
One person in the hotel ballroom clapped vigorously.
“That was a resounding applause,” Mr. Mayorkas quipped.