I’ve attended hundreds of meetings of immigration lawyers in my career. Many of them have exhibited characteristics of 12-step groups in which we formed circles of victimhood, and “admitted that we were powerless over [INS, USCIS, DOL, State, etc.]and that our lives had become unmanageable.” Many of these sessions disgusted me because of the excess of whining complaints over action. Too often immigration lawyers are wont to complain and play victim, but rarely do they model the fictional TV executive, Howard Beale in the movie, Network (“I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”).

I also believe in the proverb I first encountered, if memory serves, in The Autobiography of Malcolm X: It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.

Well now is our chance to stop whimpering in darkness and light a few candles (I can’t seem to avoid proverbs today). USCIS has asked for stakeholder input on its priorities. A “policy review” survey, approved by the Office of Management & Budget (OMB), is open for response until April 29. As food for thought on what policies make the most sense, consider the USCIS-related testimony given on March 23 before the House Judiciary’s Immigration Subcommittee.

I took the survey today and here are excerpts from my comments:

USCIS’s # 1 priority should be statutory compliance with the APA and other laws administered by OMB.The agency should comply with the APA rulemaking requirements for public notice and comment, and issue regulations in a variety of areas where regulations do not exist. The agency should refrain from issuing press releases, posting web site announcements, making significant substantive law changes on immigration forms or issuing policy memoranda that are not in compliance with the APA, the PRA, the RFA and other laws administered by OMB.

# 2 USCIS should make every effort to persuade Congress that a primarily user-fee system of financing its operations will not protect homeland security or allow achievement of the agency’s mission and that substantially larger appropriations are required to perform the critical federal mission of USCIS.

# 3 priority should be revamping the Administrative Appeals Office by requiring adjudicators to be lawyers, publishing rules of procedure, speeding cycle time on appeals, allowing for continuation of employment authorization and tolling of unlawful presence during appeals and establishing precedent decisions.

#4 The USCIS should adopt an on-line case problem application for lawyers and accredited representatives. There is no need to clog the 1-800 # with lawyer and representative calls when problems can be more easily solved through an on-line tool.

I also added commentary, in line with many of my posts, that USCIS should work with ICE to expand the grant of deferred action and employment authorization to favored categories of unauthorized persons, e.g., beneficiaries of the DREAM Act and AgJobs bills (as Senators Lugar and Durbin now propose), as a precursor and (changer of facts on the ground) in anticipation of comprehensive immigration reform.

Immigration lawyers may quibble with me over my prioritization of USCIS policies, of course. But unless you take the survey, be sure that the next time I see you at a bar function (YOU know who YOU are), I will have no sympathy if you answer “no” to my question: “Did you take the survey?”