“Hell is paved with good intentions.” ~ Samuel Johnson
To its credit, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – the beleaguered Department of Homeland Security (DHS) component charged with adjudicating requests for immigration benefits – is trying in earnest to improve. On April 18, 2021, the agency posted a notice (“Identifying Barriers Across [USCIS] Benefits and Services; Request for Public Input”). The notice set out 17 detailed questions on which members of the immigration stakeholder community and the general public might offer their insights. This is welcome news. It demonstrates the sincerity of the agency in its desire to dig out from under the horrific degradation of our nation’s immigration programs wreaked by the 1,065 adverse actions of the Trump administration.
Unfortunately, the notice as published contained a glitch. The plan all along, as reflected in this early heads-up alert on soon-to-be-published notices in the Federal Register, was to allow public comment for a 30-day period. Instead, the notice in final form provided only one day to comment. It stated: “Written comments are requested on or before April 19, 2021. Late-filed comments will be considered to the extent practicable.”
This blogger is rooting for USCIS to succeed and believes the agency sincerely wants to improve. Great things are happening there. A talented, competent, non-partisan veteran, Tracy Renaud, is temporarily leading the agency. She has already set the tone by announcing that USCIS under the Biden Administration would welcome noncitizens with more inclusive appellations. Ms. Renaud is joined by the new USCIS Chief Counsel, Ashley Tabaddor, an inspiring leader and talented lawyer who most recently led the National Association of Immigration Judges in that union’s ongoing quest, with the ABA, AILA and many other organizations, to establish an Article I immigration court that would be independent of the Attorney General. They should soon be joined by Ur Jaddou, President Biden’s nominee to serve as the Director of USCIS. She previously served as the agency’s Chief Counsel, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Legislative Affairs, Chief Counsel to the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, Senior Counsel to Representative Zoe Lofgren, and most recently, as Director of DHS Watch for America’s Voice. This impressive trio will no doubt be empowered and inspired by Alejandro Mayorkas, the former USCIS Director, who now serves as DHS Secretary.
With this auspicious assemblage of talent, USCIS can be forgiven for a misstep out of the gate. Great things are set to happen. But do re-open the comment period so that the public and immigration stakeholders have the full 30 days to offer their views.