The following is from the Nov. 5, 2010 edition of Liberty & Security Journal.
Oct. 29: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has fired off a series of letters to top government officials about possible fraud in visa applications and applications for benefits.
In a press release Oct. 15, Grassley said he asked the Secretary of the US Dept. of Homeland Security and the Inspector General at DHS “to address evidence from statements made by immigration officers that senior US Citizenship and Immigration Services leaders are putting pressure on employees to approve more visa applications, even if the applications might be fraudulent or the applicant is ineligible.”
Since his first letter to USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas in September, Grassley claims, “Additional agency insiders have provided new information suggesting that the director is responsible for fostering an environment in the California Service Center that encourages the approval of as many applications as possible, regardless of eligibility or potential fraud.”
Grassley cited USCIS employees who alleged a “visibly agitated” Mayorkas asked them why they were “focusing on [fraud] instead of approvals.” On another occasion at a conference in Landsdowne, Virginia, Mayorkas allegedly said some managers had “black spots on their hearts” because they wouldn’t approve more visa applications.
Grassley’s statement expressed concerns about the rule of law “being undermined by political leaders” and the “safety of America’s citizens.”
Grassley began digging into the matter when whistleblower accusations surfaced alleging that “supervisors directed staff at the California Service Center to ‘find a way’ to approve visa applications and expressed a desire to ‘instruct generosity’ when processing immigration benefits.” The senator’s statement also said since that time, “Additional agency staff has come forward with allegations of retaliation and pressure asserted by leadership.”
In one letter to DHS, Grassley noted his concerns about an internal USCIS draft memorandum that outlined methods of administrative alternatives to comprehensive immigration reform. Such methods would amount to passive amnesty.
Grassley said his staff had interviewed seven USCIS employees and he also said he’s obtained “hundreds of pages of supporting documents.”
Grassley also asserted he believes USCIS’s Mayorkas “is fostering an environment that pressures employees to approve as many applications as possible and condones retaliation against those who dissent.”
Grassley has received responses to his requests for specific information. Officials at DHS and USCIS told the senator some of the requests must be referred to the Freedom of Information Unit at USCIS. One letter from DHS told Grassley his “factual assertions” were “inaccurate.”
Grassley has asked to interview some of the employees at USCIS, and he is still waiting on specific answers rather than descriptions of policy from federal officials.
A spokesperson for Grassley’s office said on Thursday, “We are seeking an additional explanation as to what they specifically claim is inaccurate, since we have obtained additional corroboration since sending the initial letter.”
In August, 2010, a group of officers and agents issued a ‘no confidence’ vote in John Morton, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and for Office of Detention Policy and Planning Assistant Director Phyllis Coven.
The ‘no confidence’ letter was issued from the American Federation of Government Employees after ICE issued new requirements for detention centers. ICE decided to add research resources at the law libraries, mandate playing the ‘Know Your Rights’ legal orientation video in each housing unit daily and to “soften the look” for facilities with hanging plants, flower baskets and new paint colors.i
In September Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) attempted to cram part of an immigration bill [The DREAM Act] into the Defense Authorization Bill. Reid also attempted to limit amendments sponsored by Republicans.
Grassley’s spokesperson said the senator is “disappointed” with the response to his letters and he is “weighing his next steps.” /Analysis by Kay Day, The US Report
iDay, K. (2010, August 6). Underground immigration rumbles with no-confidence vote in ICE leaders. The US Report. Retrieved from http://www.theusreport.com/the-us-report/2010/8/6/underground-immigration-rumbles-with-no-confidence-vote-in-i.html