A second federal immigration employees union is opposing the bipartisan Senate bill to reform the immigration system, saying it would compromise national security.
The union, the National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, says that it does not oppose the idea of reforming the immigration system, only the lack of any indication in the bill that present problems won’t be compounded by the additional workload that reform is expected to bring.
Kenneth Palinkas, the president of the union representing 12,000 officers and other employees of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), said in a statement emailed to various news outlets that serious flaws in the immigration system are allowing people to obtain temporary and permanent U.S. residency without the proper screenings, and such gaps pose a serious threat to national security.
The problem of less oversight, he said, dates back about a decade, to the Bush administration, but has become worse since the Obama administration implemented a new program last year that gives undocumented immigrants brought as children a two-year reprieve from deportation.
Palinkas added that USCIS workers increasingly are being pressured to approve applications in the interest of speed and avoiding backlogs. Palinkas said that pressure to process applications for such things as naturalizations and other non-enforcement services the agency provides leaves little time for checks and balances.
“Most of the decisions we make are going to give you the benefit,” Palinkas said in an interview with Fox News Latino. “We’re not going to deny [an application] because we don’t have time. We’re just skimming files, and this is somebody’s life, and you can’t go through the file. There may be something in there you need to see.”
The system, he said, "is geared toward granting."
"We're a granting machine."
The union that represents the enforcement arm, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), first raised objections to the reform bill last month.
The head of that union (called the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council), Chris Crane, said in a letter to Congress earlier this month that the reform bill seemed to prioritize pleasing special interest groups and warned that parts of it – particularly the part that allows a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants – threatens community safety and national security.
In a conference call with reporters in April, Crane said “the plan of the gang of eight appears to be legalization, or amnesty first, and then enforcement, that is a big problem for us.”
Supporters of the bill, and members of the “Gang of Eight” – the four Democrats and four Republicans who drafted the measure – have argued that it addresses enforcement as well as offers a way to bring those who qualify among the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to legal status.
“The mission of our federal employees is critical to identifying threats and providing for public safety and national security,” said Palinkas in his statement about the union’s position on the bill. “We are the very backbone of our nation's immigration system and will be at the center of implementing any immigration reform."
"Yet, like the ICE Council, the USC IS Council was not consulted in the crafting of the Gang of
Eight's legislation. Instead, the legislation. . .makes the current system worse, not better."
Palinkas said that USCIS officers get about 12 applications to work on daily and they get about 15 minutes for conducting interviews with each applicant. He said it’s hardly enough time to spot fraud or ask questions that may prove someone ineligible for naturalization.
He said that 99.5 percent of applications that officers review for the deferred action program are approved, and that they do not have interviews – a huge void, he said.
“These practices… guarantee that applications will be rubber-stamped for approval, a practice that virtually guarantees widespread fraud and places public safety at risk.”
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on https://twitter.com/Liz_Llorente