Politics
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., flanked by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., left, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., right, speaks as immigration reform legislation by the Senate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., flanked by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., left, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., right, speaks as immigration reform legislation by the Senate's bipartisan "Gang of Eight" that would create a path for the nation's 11 million unauthorized immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship, Thursday, April 18, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)  

Immigration officers union warns against Senate immigration bill

Photo of Caroline May
Caroline May
Political Reporter

The president of the union representing 12,000 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services adjudications officers and staff has added his name to a letter of law enforcement officials detailing their concerns about the Senate’s bipartisan “Gang of Eight” immigration bill.

In a statement to be released Monday, obtained by The Daily Caller, Kenneth Palinkas, president of the National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, offers his AFL-CIO affiliated union’s concerns with the current immigration system and contends that the Senate bill does not address those concerns. He further points out that, like the Immigration and Custom Enforcement employees union, the USCIS Council was not consulted in the bill’s drafting and urges lawmakers to oppose the bill.

“We at USCIS are honored to stand with immigration officers and law enforcement officials across the nation,” says Palinkas in the statement.

“Dedicated USCIS adjudications officers and staff perform the indispensable work of reviewing millions of applications every single year for those seeking to receive visas, become citizens and permanent residents, or to otherwise adjust their immigration status. The mission of our federal employees is critical to identifying threats and providing for public safety and national security. We are the very backbone of our nation’s immigration system and will be at the center of implementing any immigration reform.”

According to Palinkas’ statement and the letter — signed by over 40 law enforcement officials, including National Immigration and Custom Enforcement Council President Chris Crane and chairman of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, Zach Taylor — the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill will not correct the current enforcement problems endemic to America’s immigration system. The letter was distributed to every member of Congress earlier this month.

In his statement, Palinkas highlights nine issues his union believes the Gang of Eight legislation fails to address with the current immigration system, including the fact that Palinkas says USCIS has become an application “approval machine” where few applications are denied due to a “rubber stamp” culture, “discouraging proper investigation into red flags and discouraging the denial of any applications.”

The bureaucracy of the current immigration system, Palinkas argues, makes coordination with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents difficult and “USCIS officers are pressured to approve visa applications for many individuals ICE agents have determined should be placed into deportation proceedings.”

Palinkas further decries what he calls Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s “secretive panels,” which must approve USCIS officers’ notices for illegal immigrants to appear before federal judges to be put in removal proceedings.

“USCIS officers who identify illegal aliens that, in accordance with law should be placed into immigration removal proceedings before a federal judge, are prevented from exercising their authority and responsibility to issue Notices To Appear (NTAs),” the statement reads.