On the heels of my May 8 post (Do Immigration Fee Revenues Drive Justice at the USCIS?), the Office of the Ombudsman to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a May 15 report criticizing the unfairness and inconsistency across USCIS offices nationwide of the agency’s procedures for getting a seasoned officer to take a second look at an adjudicator’s erroneous decision or action. The report, entitled “Motions Matter: Improving the Filing and Review Process for Motions To Reopen or Reconsider,” affirms the point that “clear Service errors” are widespread yet unresolved problems:
Rectifying clear Service error is a recurring customer and stakeholder concern. Filing and paying [$585] for a formal motion to reopen to correct clear Service error is costly and potentially time consuming. In addition, because refund procedures vary by office, formal motions may unfairly shift the financial burden to correct a clear Service error to USCIS customers. [Footnotes omitted.]
The Ombudsman, especially under the laudably activist reign of Michael Dougherty (who resigned recently to take a position in the private sector), has played an important role at what the Anderson Cooper 360° blog might call, “keeping them honest.” But even the most vigilant and persistent Ombudsman cannot replace the oversight roles of Congress, the President and the courts.
Bob Dylan in All Along the Watchtower could well have been thinking of USCIS when he metaphorically described the suffering that results from organizational misbehavior:
“There must be some way out of here” said the joker to the thief “There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.”
The Roman poet, Juvenal, asked the right question:
“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (Who regulates the regulators?).
More recently, in an aptly titled New York Times essay, “The Way We Live Now: Diminshed Returns,” Harvard Business School professor Niall Ferguson, although speaking of the financial crisis, could also have been describing the failings of the immigration bureaucracy when he noted:
“The reality is that crises are more often caused by bad regulation than by deregulation.” [Emphasis in the original.]
Comprehensive immigration reform (including essential reforms to the system of family-related and employment-based legal immigration) — no matter how smartly enacted — will be sent on a fool’s errand if Congress and the Obama Administration do not also reform the broken management system at all of our federal immigration agencies, and then allow the jurisdiction-stripped courts to be revested with authority to overturn agency error and wrongdoing.