This is not an April Fools’ Day post. As first leaked to BuzzFeed and subsequently reported by Axios, the political appointees in charge of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are abandoning the agency’s mission statement. In its place, well they aren’t exactly sure, so they are crowdsourcing ideas from agency staff.
The agency’s current mission statement was written by former Director Francis Cissna in 2018 and reads:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.
As Director Cissna told staff at the time of unveiling the new mission statement, “I believe this simple, straightforward statement clearly defines the agency’s role in our country’s lawful immigration system and the commitment we have to the American people.”
Well said. If you’re having trouble finding the flaws or outrage with these words, you are not alone.
In a March 31 email to USCIS staff that I subsequently obtained, Tracy Renaud, the career official handpicked by the Biden political team to run the agency in an acting capacity, announced the demise of the factually accurate and concisely written mission statement. Amusingly, the email does not announce a new mission statement, but instead punts it to staff. Renaud writes:
[T]here is no better group of people to ask for help as we contemplate how to best describe the USCIS mission and articulate our vision for the agency. I feel it is essential that we leverage your ideas and input as we craft a new mission statement and set our vision for the agency. >
Translation: The Biden political appointees have no vision for USCIS they can articulate.
Further diminishing the important work of USCIS, the email announces that a Survey Monkey will be forthcoming where staff can “submit the three words you believe best describe how we aspire to accomplish our mission.” Three words? Surely administering the nation’s lawful immigration system is more profound and complex than three buzzwords.
This of course is the same leadership team that has banned the use of the legal term “alien”. The jury is still out on whether or not the Biden political appointees realize that the "A" in “A-Number” (the unique personal identifier assigned for immigration benefits) and "A-File" (individual files identified by the A-Number) stands for "alien".
As a friend who worked with me in the Trump administration offered up, if they are looking for three words, how about “rule of law”.