USCIS Employee Rating System Change and Increased Request for Evidence

Published on    30 June 2014     Hits: 1012

The increase of request for evidence (RFE) has been officially reported and widely experienced by the immigration practitioners.  What is new is that the increase of RFE is no longer limited to the employment categories such as H-1B, L-1, and I-140 petitions; RFE is now issued across multiple categories including family based petitions.  In addition, the content of these RFEs are not only extremely burdensome and repetitive but also bordering on infringement of privacy. 

This appears to be the natural outcome of the changed employee rating system at USCIS.  An Office of the Inspector General’s report that I came across recently reports that the top agency management changed the employee rating system so that USCIS adjudicators are rated 50% based on whether they uncover "fraud." 
More precisely, the report states: “With the new FY 2011 performance measures, production is noncritical to performance… The new ISO [Immigration Services Officer] performance measures are designed to protect the integrity of the immigration system through a focus on national security and fraud identification… In FY 2011, 50% of an ISO’s overall performance rating was based on fraud detection and national security identification. The quality and accuracy of an ISO’s decisions accounted for the other 50% of the rating.”
In its executive summary, the report mentions that Senator Grassley expressed concern to the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General about United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) efforts to process requests for immigration benefits while protecting the system from fraud.

Senator Grassley is the one leading efforts blocking all immigration reforms and instituting more stringent standards in all immigration areas.  In February, the Senator wrote a letter to the President regarding raising the standards against high skilled foreign workers even though 63% received requests for evidence and 27% was denied last year.

As a result, Immigration Services Officers are now incentivized to treat every case like a criminal/ fraud investigation.   If police officers are rated on the number of traffic tickets they issued, it is only natural that they will spend most time writing traffic tickets.
However, by its own account, USCIS’s role is about securing America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system.
Because USCIS leadership has forgotten its mission under political pressure, what we get is not a system that protects America’s national interests by efficiently and accurately administering immigration benefits but a system that is a shameless bottleneck to the America’s promise as a nation of immigrants.
More importantly, what is alarming is the mindset.  No one would disagree that fraud identification and national security are two very important issues.  Nevertheless, I wonder why I get the impression that the US Government (that is, the Senator, the USCIS leadership, and the OIG) are equating immigrants to terrorists.
Speaking at Duke University, Condoleezza Rice said that when traveling the globe as secretary of state, she found people viewed the U.S. as the land of free markets and free people, a place where anyone could become a part of the country.  She also said that the country needs to return to that mindset.

Poignantly, she spoke “I don’t know when immigrants became the enemy.”

I believe we, as members of this great society, need to renew our mindset.  When we stop underestimating our own immigrant roots and start believing that the US truly is the land of the free and immigrants have fueled our country, the vocal minority protectionists who cover their true intents under the blanket of national security won’t be able to control our government policies.  Are we, the immigrants, really a threat to the country’s national security and cause of the recession?  More than ever, a moderate reasonable voice must come out and be heard. 

Mario Guevara-Martinez