USCIS Tries to Bar DoJ from Looking at Its Records

By David North on August 11, 2011

USCIS got its wrist slapped this week by an arm of the Justice Department, when USCIS tried to hide a quasi-amnesty application from an immigration judge.

An illegal alien from El Salvador, Pablo De Jesus Henriquez Rivera, tried to revive his previously rejected application for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), thus making his presence in the U.S. legal, when he came before an immigration judge.

The judge, not unreasonably, said to USCIS: let me see his original application. USCIS refused. The case then went to the Board of Immigration Appeals; that entity, like the immigration courts, is part of the U.S. Department of Justice.

BIA then ruled, in a decision made public today, that USCIS had a legal obligation to share the document with the judge.

For other reasons Henriquez Rivera's removal proceedings are, according to BIA, moving ahead, but the case was remanded to the immigration judge so that he can complete the case after USCIS hands over the application.

USCIS, by its unwillingness to release the file to the judge, has, at the very least, kept the Salvadoran in the nation a while longer until the immigration judge makes the next decision.

As background, there are more than 217,000 illegal aliens from El Salvador benefitting from TPS, and thus, if they seek an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), able to work legally in the U.S. This, as we pointed out in a CIS Memorandum entitled "America's Collection of Quasi-Amnesties", is a "temporary" legal status, but one that is routinely renewed at 18 month intervals, by a decision of the Secretary of DHS, requiring no action by Congress.

When DHS renews a TPS situation, all the beneficiaries have to file for the program again and pay fees to USCIS.

It is not clear whether the illegal in the case was trying to renew his TPS papers, or whether he was applying for the first time. The El Salvador part of the program has long been closed to new applicants, but such cases can drag through the courts for years.

As one who has battled USCIS over its penchant for secrecy for years, as noted in this blog, I was cheered to see that while that agency can keep secrets from the public it cannot do so from the Justice Department.