GAO Report Supports Position that USCIS Wastes Time on Tiny Groups

By David North on August 30, 2011

One should never write "I told you so," so I will not do so, but I will say that this blog's view that USCIS devotes too much executive and staff time to tiny migrant populations was reinforced (if unwittingly) by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in its recent testimony on the introduction of federal immigration control to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).

For more on this transfer of authority, GAO's tepid report on it, and on immigration policies in this small U.S. possession lying north of Guam, see my recent blog.

The policy point, stated in another blog, is that USCIS should focus its energies on major issues – such as which aliens should be, and should not be, admitted to the U.S. – rather than spending too much time worrying about benefits for very small groups of people.

Another comment made earlier is that USCIS also devotes too much executive time on making it easier for aliens to seek to waive the agency's fees. Some individual fees, of course, should be eliminated, but USCIS has leaned over backwards on this matter, thus thrusting costs onto the shoulders of the taxpayers.

These two themes were brought together in yet another blog when I discussed the odd USCIS position that some members of a small class of investors in the CNMI had been ruled both rich enough to get visas as investors, but poor enough to qualify for fee waivers.

The people involved are largely aging Japanese who retired to the CNMI when it had a very loose definition of "investor". If an alien had put $50,000 into a house in the islands, or was paying a couple of hundred dollars a month in rent, that person could get a nonimmigrant visa from the islands' government.

I had written that this was a very small population, by its very definition, but I did not know how small it really was.

Now, the recent GAO testimony has spelled out the size of the CNMI-only investor class that I had been discussing. GAO reports that there have been exactly twenty (20) applicants for this status, and presumably only a fraction of them would be able to claim the level of poverty needed to waive the fee. So the total population of interest was not 20 – it was just a fraction of 20.

And for this handful of aliens there is a full set of regulations, announcements in the Federal Register, presumably forms and instructions – the whole bureaucratic ball of wax. GAO, incidentally, did not mention whether any of the investors had actually filed for the fee waiver.

While I still regard GAO's testimony on the islands as pretty feeble, let me say "Thank you, GAO, for your numbers!"