USCIS Spends Too Much Time on Tiny Populations, Including Dead Ones

By David North on May 3, 2011

USCIS, thanks to its own inclinations and congressional thoughtlessness, spends too much executive time on tiny populations, including dead ones.

Recently that agency's busy Office of Public Engagement, unwittingly exposed this tiny- population focus when it, usefully, reminded all and sundry of some form revision notices in the Federal Register.

The USCIS concern is not the people themselves – dead alien servicemen and Amerasian immigrants, two very small populations – but the forms to be used, but rarely, in connection with those persons. How should they be improved? Or shortened?

The utilization of these forms, the agency guesses, will be at the rate of about 50 a year, each.

So the government, at some considerable expense, is telling the whole world, through the Federal Register, that it wants people to comment on the forms, and the time it takes people to fill out those forms, if that actually comes to pass. It is a remarkable, and costly, exercise.

The government does not ask how much government time, ink, and paper is to be used to ask this question, review the responses, and then re-design the forms, to meet the suggestions, if any.

Let's look at the two populations of interest. Now, once upon a time it made humanitarian sense to rescue the illicit offspring of American servicemen who were left behind when their daddies left Vietnam. America, understandably, was not popular with the Vietnamese at that time, and the Vietnamese were particularly nasty to the numerous half-Vietnamese, half-Black kids. (Racial bias among some Third World populations makes the American Ku Klux Klan look like a bunch of kindly, if oddly dressed, monks.)

So we passed a law that these Amerasians could come to the U.S. as a sort of refugee class.

But the war ended 36 years ago; the admissions of Amerasian kids (now middle-aged) and their relatives dropped to 84 in FY 2008, and to 54 in FY 2009, according to Table 7 of the DHS Yearbook of Immigration Statistics. Often such programs continue years after their rationale has died.

But sometimes disputes arise as to whether the sponsors of these Amerasians are supporting them as they said they would when the papers were first filed; the alternative is that these persons go on welfare. And there is Form I-363 for this purpose, and now USCIS wonders if this rarely-used form could be improved?

I have replied to the Federal Register notice, for CIS, and have suggested that if the agency is interested in the finances of the sponsor, they might seek his or her Social Security number, so that they can get income information from either the IRS or the Social Security system. Mine will be one of a handful of responses, I suspect. But for a flow of 50 forms a year, they should go to this trouble?

The other population of interest are dead aliens who served in the armed forces but did not naturalize before they died, again a tiny group. The form in this case is the N-644, the Application for Posthumous Citizenship, which can give certain chain-migration benefits to some of the survivors of the alien soldier. Again USCIS thinks that form is used no more than 50 times a year, and again it wants help with its re-design.

In this case I noted an entry for "mother's maiden name," and wondered if the Obama administration will continue to use such a sexist phrase. (Everyone has a birth name, only women have maiden names.) I will try to look at the Federal Register months from now to see how they handled that one.

In an earlier blog I pointed out that USCIS had found a tiny group of elderly Japanese homeowners in the Northern Marianas Islands who, simultaneously, could be rich enough to be investors, but poor enough to need a waiver of a $325 immigration fee.

In general terms, USCIS should be lobbying Congress: 1) to try to avoid legislation for tiny groups of people; 2) to impose termination dates on programs with short-term fuses, such as taking care of the kids of servicemen during the Vietnam War; and 3) when all else fails, to seek waivers for rules involving tiny groups of people, such as designing the forms for them.

Maybe USCIS is doing all these things, but if so, it is invisible to me.