USCIS Spends Inordinate Resources on Tiny Populations

By David North on September 23, 2010

DHS continues to spend substantial staff resources on the alleged problems of tiny migrant populations, while giving short shrift to bigger issues.

It hides its priorities by never discussing in public the size of the populations involved.

For instance, in a recent blog I mentioned all the staff work devoted to a small, and frankly harmless alien population, the live-in lovers of foreign diplomats. USCIS went to great lengths to give employment authorization of live-in diplomatic dependents who were neither spouses, nor children, nor blood relatives of the diplomats.

There were no estimates – and this is SOP for USCIS – of the number of people to be assisted by the new employment rules for this small subset of diplomatic dependents.

Today's examples are two other very small populations, one a tiny class of would-be immigrants, and the other a very small class of nonimmigrant students.

The would-be immigrants are those of outstanding ability, frankly a worthy group, who seek to enter the U.S. from overseas. There were 308 of them in this category in FY 2009 according to table 7 of the mostly recently published Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.

There is also a somewhat larger population of "outstandings" – the same legal immigration category – who want to adjust to immigrant status; they are now in the country in some other, presumably nonimmigrant, status and apparently not subject to this particular USCIS exercise.

Apparently the problem is that some of the outstandings, and/or their prominent friends, and/or their immigration lawyers have been troubled by what they regard as a burdensome level of proof regarding their outstandingness. USCIS staffers faced with an immigration visa from someone claiming to be remarkable, but not known to the staffers, and not the recipient of something obvious like the Nobel Prize, sometimes ask questions regarding their credentials. They do so through process called "Request for Evidence."

USCIS just concluded a stakeholder review of the process, and, in the course of it, have distributed a cover sheet and an 18-page draft RFE document for comment. One can imagine the amount of staff time involved.

Meanwhile, ICE is also worried about the extent to which F-1 students from Haiti have a right to work in the U.S. All such students have the limited right to work on campus during the school year and in the summer, but USCIS wants in this Federal Register notice to expand their right to work and to reduce the number of hours of education if the students ask for that. I have no problem with the thrust of this proposal, but only note that it cannot possibly relate to more than about 1,000 people.

The change in the rules only applies to people who:

  1. came to the U.S. in F-1 status before January 12, 2010; and

  2. are still here in that status; and

  3. who want the extra work authorization; and

  4. who have not already filed for Temporary Protected Status, for which they are eligible, and which gives them unlimited access to the U.S. labor market.

The ICE press release on the subject makes no reference to TPS, an interesting omission, but then TPS is a program operated by another DHS agency, USCIS.

The population described above is not only small, it can only, given the fine print, shrink in size. The numbers are, of course, not estimated by ICE.

The best data available to me is from the 2007 edition of Open Doors, the annual census of foreign students in the U.S., published by the Institute for International Education. It says that there were 1,163 students from Haiti.

Would not it be nice to see the USCIS staff energies, now devoted to these two tiny populations, unleashed on the labor exploitation in the various H temporary worker programs, or devoted to deporting some of the clearly deportable people known to DHS?