News & Politics

U.S. Citizenship Agency Adopts Trump's Hostile, Antagonistic View of Immigrants

The agency no longer calls the United States a "nation of immigrants."

Photo Credit: National Parks Service/Michael Quinn

Under President Trump, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is adopting a more aggressive and skeptical view of immigrants — the very people the agency is designed to assist.

The shift in attitude was made clear Thursday in the agency's new mission statement, which removed the phrase "nation of immigrants," emphasized the need to "protect" Americans and ceased referring to immigrants as its "customers."

The new statement now reads:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.

Before Thursday, the mission statement was:

USCIS secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system.

As Dara Lind points out at Vox, this change is particularly strange because, unlike the other two immigration agencies, Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, USCIS is not about enforcing border laws or keeping people out of the country. Its purpose is to facilitate the process of becoming an American, and it is largely funded through the fees its applicants pay. That's why it made sense for its previous mission statement to refer to immigrants as customers.

Since the agency is tasked with providing American citizenship, it's troubling that it would cast its mission as "protecting Americans." Of course, under the old statement, the agency sought to ensure the "integrity of the immigration system," which has myriad features designed for the nation's safety. But now, "protecting Americans" and "securing the homeland" is erroneously presented as an aim that is in tension with "adjudicating requests for immigration benefits."

The agency has shamefully embraced a more hostile and less helpful stance toward people who are proud to become Americans.

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Cody Fenwick is a reporter and editor. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.