USCIS Devotes Much Staff Time to Abused Alien Step-Parents of Citizens

By David North on September 14, 2011

Here's the (admittedly odd) scenario:

1. An American citizen takes a trip overseas to beat up or otherwise abuse his alien step-parent or step-parents, or maybe his alien biological parent or parents. (Let's call it a totally regrettable and very, very specialized form of tourism.)

2. The abused alien step-parent or parent survives the abuse and then consults a U.S. immigration lawyer, and learns that because of the abuse, or maybe alleged abuse, the abusee, if that is a word, can file for immigration to the United States and receive a quick (but lifelong) green card as an "immediate relative of a U.S. citizen."


3. Apparently deciding that this is an important flow of migrants, and the definitions of "parents" are not sufficiently clear, USCIS issues a Policy Memorandum on the subject and places the revised section – a seven-page, single-spaced document – into the Adjudicator's Field Manual, the bible of USCIS' decision-makers. The AFM revision, issued on August 30, can be seen here. It is Policy Memorandum 602-0046.

How often did the odd scenario outlined above actually occur during the last fiscal year?

Well, USCIS gets coy on this point, and while numbers of immigrants are routinely listed for groups of them (in Table 7 of the 2010 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics) we do not see a number for this category; instead, we see the notation "D".

You look at the footnote to the table regarding "D" and you find another indication of the agency's bizarre privacy policies; the text reads: "Data withheld to limit disclosure." I have never been able to understand the rationale of this policy.

One can tell from reading the Yearbook that it is OK to use the numbers three (or more) in the tables, but there are never indications of one or two. The concept of zero is expressed by a dash. So, D must equal one or two.

That's how many – one or two – abused alien parents and/or step-parents immigrated to the U.S. in this category in fiscal year 2010.

I have previously pointed out similar wastes of staff time to work out the regulations and related documents for no more than 20 temporary residents of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas who were, simultaneously, judged to be rich enough to be investors but poor enough not to have to pay USCIS registration fees.

And for the one or two overseas alien parental abusees in this case, we have the long USCIS document which must have been written by specialists, and cleared by lawyers, and sent to the staff, and sent to the rest of us by the Office of Public Engagement. And printed with paper and ink, and on the internet.

To be perfectly fair, 29 aliens living in the U.S., either illegally or as temporary nonimmigrants, also took advantage of this quirk of the law in FY 2010 to adjust to green card status. In the prior year it had been seven immigrants and ten adjustees, so the parental-abuse-leading-to-green-card problem is apparently increasing, from a total of 17 in FY 2009 to a total of either 30 or 31 in FY 2010.

The abused alien parents, incidentally, receive these benefits as a result of their inclusion in a much broader group of abused relatives of U.S. citizens, notably battered and abused alien spouses, mostly wives, of U.S. citizens. Where ever possible, USCIS uses the term "self-petitioning" rather than "abused."

The Policy Memorandum of immediate interest leans heavily toward clarifying step-parents' eligibility for this peculiar immigration pathway, as USCIS apparently wants to make sure that no opportunity, however obscure, to increase the total number of immigrants to the U.S., goes unused. There are no statutory numerical limits for the admissions of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.

I would prefer that all this executive time were spent on something more significant.