“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” The Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.
In an interview with NPR, Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli paraphrased Emma Lazarus’s great poem inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Cuccinelli began by saying, “Bring me your tired, your huddled masses, yearning to be free,” then he added, “that can stand on their own two feet and won’t be a burden on the U.S. government.” The contrived addition to the poem has caused quite a bit of controversy.
Listen to the episode below.
It should be noted that the Trump Administration is not advocating to change the poem on the Statue of Liberty as some news headlines have indicated. However, Cuccinelli’s remarks illustrate how USCIS has changed its approach to legal immigration. The misconstrued poem is really a rallying cry to Trump’s political base.
Historically, America has been a place that welcomes people from all walks of life. Yet, to continue paraphrasing the Statue of Liberty’s poem, the United States has now erected a gate or a wall instead of being the light by the golden door.
The United States is a melting pot where all races, religions, creeds and genders are accepted. America has been a place where the persecuted can find refuge. That is what makes America great. We are not one type of people. We’re all people.
The tale of American brothers and sisters is the tale of immigrants. We all have some story about how and when our folks came to the United States. Replacing the Statue of Liberty with a wall means excluding some instead of including all.
How USCIS Has Morphed
USCIS has changed from being a service-based provider of immigration benefits to an enforcement agency. USCIS was designed to process cases and make sure the criteria are being met. The current process already determines whether somebody has enough ‘merit’ to qualify. Now, USCIS is creating new reasons to deny cases.
Many people are unaware of how specific immigration regulations have changed. People have continued to file immigration paperwork in the same old way: create a Table of Contents, provide some evidence and let the immigration officers figure it out. As a result, denials are becoming more prevalent, causing frustration for U.S. employers.
USCIS is cherry-picking issues in an effort to deny cases. Things like contract language, job titles and descriptions, employer-employee relationships, right to control and vendor relationships are all being used as a means of denial.
What we do is help look at how the primary documents are organized. For example, what do the contracts with employees and vendors say? What is the language in them? How is the job being named and described? What is the relationship between other companies and who is in control of the employees?
A Classic Example of How USCIS is Looking for Ways to Deny Cases
Ms. Chattergy came to the United States from India on an F-1 student visa. After graduation, Chattergy worked under the Optional Practical Training program (OPT) for LexisNexis. The OPT program allows foreign-born U.S. graduates to stay and work for a company for one year. If the company likes them, they can file an H-1B visa petition.
Well, LexisNexis decided that Ms. Chattergy’s performance was up to par and wanted to hire her as a Data Analyst. That is part of what LexisNexis does. They hire smart people with technical backgrounds to analyze data so that they can give that data to their clients.
Data Analysis is a skill that qualifies for a merit-based visa. The company determined that the job required a specialized degree in either business analytics, statistics, math, operations or research methods, all of which are associated with data analytics.
Immigration took the ridiculous stance that because there were too many different degrees that could lead to the job, it was not specialized enough and denied the case. After the denial, Ms. Chattergy and her bosses sued USCIS and won.
Essentially, what we’re talking about USCIS denying U.S. employers the ability to hire talented, skilled people for positions they need filling.
The Implications for Legal Immigration
Because of arbitrary and mean-spirited decisions like this, U.S. companies are relocating and taking American jobs with them. Americans are being robbed of employment opportunities because the U.S. government is not giving employers the freedom to hire people with the necessary skills.
Immigrants are a good idea. America is a light by the golden door. The philosophy change forced by USCIS leadership is a catalyst for reasonably undesired structural change.