I’ve toured a number of the USCIS regional service centers. In all of them, rows upon rows of immigration file folders, stacked high overhead in warehouse-sized rooms, are shuttled hither and thither, ultimately to be doled out to adjudicators sitting in Dilbert-style cubicles and intently facing their computer screens while reading paper files. The job of people who adjudicate requests for immigration benefits is not easy. They toil in an atmosphere where skepticism and distrust born of fear of fraud is inbred. CAOs (Center Adjudications Officers) must always strive to remember that the reams of paper and terabytes of digital data streaming through their work-stations involve living, breathing people whose lives will be forever changed by the fateful decisions they make. Two of these people, Daisy and Amit, have offered compelling comments to a post entitled “Immigration Gaming – USCIS Style.”

Amit comments:

Interesting indeed! The house wins and we still gamble. And so is the nature of the game. I find it rather fascinating that the inefficiency and unaccountability of this branch of the government is known and widely discussed, however, no major media seems to take them up on their news. However, other [branches] of government are under fire everyday. Just watch the news for FDA, Treasury, EPA etc. I find this situation more analogous to a coin toss of supply-demand. There [are] so many of us wanting to immigrate, there is no real need to thoroughly scrutinize applications. Given few hours for the adjudicator to understand a person on paper, most of us in a given category are indistinguishable and if at all it is by a small margin. What rules will you apply? You might as well decide by a coin toss. Have you seen a coin toss game at casinos? Wonder why? The house has no advantage or interest in a coin toss. For the adjudicators, it doesn’t really matter if you or your colleague stays here. So they are perfectly fine denying your application and approving a subpar (according to you) application of you colleague. Remember, both application meet minimum standards for most part. All these commentaries/blogs mean nothing if you get approved. It means a world of sensible evaluation if you are on the short end of the stick. Put your best face forward on the package and see what they have to say.

Daisy writes:

How true and very well said! No better person to comment than me who has been at the receiving end. After working on H-1B for nine years, just last week I got a denial on my I-140 petition on my employer(the petitioner)ability to pay grounds. All through my nine years I have paid taxes and been a worthy resident in every walk of life-bought a home at 700K, bought two cars worth nearly 70K and contributed to the neighborhood for a better living environment for everyone. I am a working mother with two kids-one of them born here. What is more absurd and absolutely ridiculous is the fact that another colleague of mine whose petition was filed at the same service center a month after my petition was filed, his case was approved without any RFE! What a shame! I had great hopes and respect for the systems that prevail and work in this country, but after this episode I have such a low opinion of this country that I cannot write it in English vocabulary! Good luck to everyone who is still pursuing the free-world and equal opportunity dream in this country. It is just a sham.

It’s hard for CAOs to avoid becoming jaundiced about their jobs. The fault lies not in the stars but in ourselves. As one of the best adjudicators, Larry Weinig, who now describes himself as “Happy Retiree,” explains in an earlier post, there is reason aplenty to become cynical:

[The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)] has gotten absurdly complex, primarily because of backroom meddling from well-meaning (maybe) but misguided and myopic special interests including AILA and its clientele, among many others. The INA no longer makes any sense because the US no longer has any articulable immigration policy. It is merely a collection of unconnected provisions reflecting the wishes of special interests with enough connections to get their own situations taken care of. Look at any of the 100 or more amendments to the INA since the 1980s and tell me you can’t see special interest fingerprints on every one of them. The Jordan Commission was the only legitimate effort to truly reform immigration policy and that report was totally ignored by our lawmakers. Sadly, any so-called “comprehensive immigration reform” will just be more of the same. There is no chance any bill being put together in the backrooms of Congress will be anything close to “comprehensive” or in any way consider what is in the best interests of the United States.

So what must the adjudicator with integrity do? Beware the curse of indifference. Strive always to be sensitive to the lives affected by the momentous decisions you are asked to make. Make a few resolutions that will help keep your “compassion” muscle as fine tuned as your seemingly autonomic tendency to say no.