New Bill aims to REFORM the USCIS & other Immigration Agencies


Bill to Authorize and Reform Key Immigration Agencies

Article written by: Attorney Melissa Winkler

Photo Courtesy by: Houston Public Media



On May 11, 2017, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte introduced two bills to authorize and reauthorize key immigration component agencies at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with the goal of ensuring the U.S. immigration laws are enforced and maintain the integrity of America’s immigration system.[1] The bill was sent to the House as a whole for consideration on May 24, 2017.[2] Authorization bills direct how federal funds should or should not be used and are typically made for single fiscal years, but are often renewed in subsequent law.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Authorization Act

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Authorization Act (H.R. 2406) makes reforms to Homeland Security Investigations and Enforcement and Removal Operations within Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The bill would also codify the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office (VOICE), an office created by the Trump Administration to provide access to information and resources to victims of crimes committed by removable aliens as well as to the families of victims. This bill would increase the number of ICE officers.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Reauthorization Act

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2407) reauthorizes USCIS, which is agency that is tasked with processing immigrant and nonimmigrant benefits petitions for those seeking temporary visas, lawful permanent residence, international adoption, and others. USCIS also adjudicates naturalization applications and manages the E-Verify system.


Roles and Responsibilities within USCIS

The text of the Act establishes USCIS discusses the role of the USCIS director, agents and officers of USCIS, and the USCIS Deputy Director. The section also details the duties and roles within the Office of Homeland Security Investigations, Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations, Office of Management and Administration, and others.[3] Specifically, under the bill, the USCIS Director is required to have at least five years of management experience. The Director will be responsible for running the agency and establishing the national immigration services policies and priorities. The bill authorizes the Field Operations Directorate whose Associate Director is responsible for managing all USCIS field offices as well as overseeing the adjudication of immigration benefits applications and petitions, applicant interviews, naturalization ceremonies, and background checks for those applying or petitioning for benefits. It also authorizes the Service Center Operations Directorate whose Associate Director oversees the five USCIS

Service Centers responsible for adjudicating benefits for petitions that do not require interviews.

The bill codifies ethics guidelines to prevent USCIS employees from improperly influencing the outcome of a case. The bill authorizes the Refugee, Asylum and International Operations Directorate whose Associate Director is responsible for overseeing refugee application adjudication and interviews, asylum application adjudication and interviews, and international adoptions and other humanitarian programs such as parole.


Fraud Prevention and National Security

In response to much of the current rhetoric that speaks to preventing fraud in the immigration system and protecting national security, the bill strengthens the mission of USCIS to “efficiently adjudicate immigration benefits petitions and applications for foreign nationals seeking legal immigration status in the United States and those seeking to become Americans, in a manner consistent with detecting and preventing fraud, while protecting American jobs and working conditions, and while ensuring the national security and welfare of the American people.” It authorizes the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate whose Associate Director is responsible for ensuring immigration benefits are not granted to individuals who pose a threat to national security or public safety, or who seek to defraud our immigration system.


Citizenship Responsibilities

The bill authorizes the Office of Citizenship to promote instruction and training on citizenship responsibilities, as well as assimilation, for eligible aliens who are interested in becoming naturalized citizens of the United States. The bill ensures the External Affairs Directorate office provides clear, accurate, and timely responses to inquiries from applicants or petitioners, and is transparent with the American people.[4]



Many recent bills have addressed E-verify. For example, the E-Verify Bill re-introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley in January would permanently authorize the E-Verify program and require employers to use the E-Verify program.[5] Like the bill introduced by Senator Grassley, The bill introduced by Goodlatte bill makes voluntary E-Verify permanent. It also authorizes the Immigration Record and Identity Services Directorate whose Associate Director is responsible for managing E-Verify and the SAVE program, as well as overseeing USCIS’ biometrics collection services and historical records management and storage.


Congressman Goodlatte stated, “In addition to reauthorizing these two agencies, we also need to make a number of changes to our laws to improve immigration enforcement and prevent fraud and abuse in the system. I look forward to bringing the ICE Authorization Act and the USCIS Reauthorization Act before the House Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks.”