Scoop: USCIS Planning on Dropping FBI Name Checks for Citizenship Applicants

By Robert Law on June 4, 2021

The ability of an alien to become a naturalized United States citizen is the most significant immigration benefit our country bestows. Given the enormous privileges (and responsibilities) that come with being a citizen, you would think that there would be universal agreement that naturalized citizens should be one of the most scrutinized and vetted populations. The Biden administration apparently disagrees.

According to multiple U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sources, the agency is close to finalizing a policy that will drop FBI name checks as a form of vetting for naturalization applicants. This is not a simple case of swapping out one form of vetting for another. As a reminder, the Biden administration already killed a finalized USCIS biometrics rule that would have replaced the current outdated and incomplete screening and vetting techniques that expose the country to fraud and exploitation, plus public safety and national security concerns. All the Biden team had to do was submit this rule to the Federal Register for publication, but instead they sent it to the regulatory graveyard by formally withdrawing the rule.

While I previously wrote about the shortcomings of FBI name checks (and other forms of USCIS vetting), since they function on an “honor system” using the name and date of birth provided by the applicant, they are certainly better than not vetting applicants at all for derogatory information.

Predictably, the cited authority for this dangerous policy shift is President Biden’s Executive Order (E.O.) 14012, “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans”, which, in part, directed relevant federal agencies to “identify barriers that impede access to immigration benefits and fair, efficient adjudications of these benefits.” As I have repeatedly pointed out (see here, here, here, here, and here), this E.O. does not define “barriers”, but Biden administration actions make clear that any aspect of immigration law they dislike is considered a “barrier”.

This move comes shortly after I revealed that the agency is dropping gang-related questions from the form aliens use to seek adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident (green card) and the lingering embarrassment that USCIS hired an immigration fraudster as an adjudications officer.

Back when now-Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was the USCIS director during the Obama administration, he transformed the agency into an immigration benefits rubber-stamping operation with a “no alien left behind” mentality. It's clear that now the philosophy includes “no criminal alien left behind”, regardless of statutory and regulatory disqualifiers for certain derogatory conduct committed by the alien.