Congress designs our immigration policy to benefit the American people. When immigrants receive visas or citizenship that they are not entitled to, Americans are worse off -- whether it is workers, taxpayers or simply citizens. If there are credible allegations that this is occurring, we have a duty to determine the truth.
Such allegations were made by a January 2012, Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General report. The report was entitled, "The Effects of USCIS Adjudication Procedures and Policies on Fraud Detection by Immigration Services Officers."
The Inspector General found that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services adjudicators are not receiving adequate training to uncover fraud in immigration benefit applications. The IG found that USCIS performance measures favor quantity over quality -- this encourages the "rubber stamping" of applications. The IG found that adjudicators feel inappropriately pressured by supervisors and USCIS leadership to approve petitions that don't meet the standards for approval. USCIS leadership seems to favor "get to yes" instead of "get it right."
Is it important that adjudicators make their decisions in a timely manner? Yes. But it is also important that they have adequate time and support to ensure that individuals who receive immigration benefits, such as a temporary visa, permanent residency or citizenship, are in fact eligible for those benefits.
Immigration benefit denial rates obtained from USCIS show a rise in denials in several categories between 2008 and 2010. Some will argue that this shows that there is no improper pressure on adjudicators. However, this rise in denials may simply be the result of adjudicators following the law. And the increased pressure by USCIS leadership to approve applications may be an attempt to reverse this recent trend.
I know that many in the business community are concerned that their petitions for alien workers are being denied and that they are being required to answer excessive requests for additional evidence, known as RFEs.
But why did denial and RFE rates go up? It very well could be because of statutory changes that were implemented and major decisions that were issued.
For instance, the changes made by the L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2004, to prevent contracting out of alien workers, were not implemented at the agency-wide level until 2008. As one would expect, there was a corresponding rise in USCIS denial rates in Fiscal Year 2008.
And the January 2010 "Neufeld Memo" on H-1B visas issued by the USCIS Associate Director for Service Center Operations, provided new guidance on what should be considered an employer-employee relationship between the petitioning company and the beneficiary. After that, as the Government Accountability Office noted, companies' petitions were no longer being approved at previous rates.
And the "GST" decision was issued by the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office in July 2008. It provided a new framework for adjudicators when determining whether or not a petition meets certain L-1B visa requirements.
Both those who support and oppose this AAO ruling can agree that it has had the natural result of increasing subsequent denial rates in the L-1 category.
But whatever may be the cause for denial rates in a particular visa category for a particular year, USCIS's own data shows that the overall denial rate for nonimmigrant worker visas has fallen over 30 percent since President Obama took office in 2009, and that the approval rate for all kinds of immigrant benefits is at an all-time high of 91 percent.
There is never a legitimate reason to pressure adjudicators to deny petitions where the beneficiary is eligible for the benefit.
And there is never a legitimate reason to pressure adjudicators to approve petitions that do not meet the statutory requirements.
But according to the Inspector General, some USCIS adjudicators do feel such pressure. That is why we are here today.
We will receive testimony from the DHS Inspector General who will explain his January 2012 report findings.
We will receive testimony from the president of the National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, which represents USCIS adjudicators. He will discuss how performance standards that emphasize quantity over quality imperil the integrity of the adjudications process.