Dozens of rank-and-file federal immigration officials say their bosses pressure them to approve visas, even at the risk of fraud and security concerns, according to the news website The Daily
The revelation comes from a new Homeland Security report The Daily obtained stating that high-ranking officials of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are pressuring rank-and-file officers to rubber-stamp visa applications.
More than 60 of 254 immigration officers surveyed “responded that they have been pressured to approve questionable applications,” sometimes “against their will,” according to the 40-page Homeland Security report. The Inspector General’s Office drafted the report in September, but it was not released publicly, The Daily reported.
The report does not name any officials, and it indicates that this is a not a new problem for the citizenship and immigration agency. The quantity-vs.-quality problem has been an issue since at least the 1980s, the report indicates.
However, it notes, the problem has only gotten worse since the Obama administration appointed Alejandro Mayorkas as director in August 2009, the report notes. Mayorkas was brought on while the administration was trying to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
“We recognize their right to interpret things as liberally as possible, but you still have to follow the law,” The Daily quoted one high-ranking official as saying.
Agency supervisors who voiced concerns over “employees who focus on fraud or ineligibility” were “evaluated unfairly,” the official said.
Veteran agents considered too tough on applicants were given the choice between a demotion or a relocation away from their families. Their cases then were reassigned to more lenient agents who will push them forward, according to the report.
“Cases are sometimes taken away from us and given to officers who the supervisors know will approve the case,” the report quotes a supervisor as saying.
“People are afraid,” said one longtime manager who requested anonymity for fear of being fired. “Integrity only carries people so far, because they’ve got to pay the rent.”
One rank-and-file officer said he was demoted because he had a high denial rate. “They don’t reprimand you. They just move you,” he said.
“They attempted to basically get me to come into line and approve a bunch of cases. And I just wouldn’t compromise myself because the approvals they ordered, they weren’t in line with the laws,” the officer said.
The report recommends improvements, including raising the burden of proof and doing away with the popular informal and special appeals practices, which immigration lawyers said would only lengthen an already onerous process, The Daily reported.
Mayorkas and Homeland Security press officers declined to comment on the allegations.
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