Two immigration enforcement union heads who have been vocal in their opposition to the Senate immigration bill brought their message to Capitol Hill Wednesday.
Kenneth Palinkas, president of the union representing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) employees, showed up to listen in and lend support as Immigration and Customs Enforcement union head Chris Crane testified about the “Gang of Eight” bill before the House Judiciary Committee.
In recent weeks the individuals and groups that comprise the nation’s immigration enforcement arm have signed onto a coalition letter chronicling the problems they have with the legislation. The National USCIS Council, signed onto the coalition letter Monday.
Crane signed the opposition letter earlier this month.
In an interview Wednesday with The Daily Caller, Palinkas and his union’s executive vice president Robert Corleto explained that the problems with the immigration system are systemic, specifically at USCIS, and will not be solved by the Senate’s attempt at reform.
Palinkas said that the agency’s 12 case-a-day quota system, which USCIS adjudications officers must meet, makes devoting extra time to cases for scrutiny all but impossible, causing officials to approve applications in order to move the process along.
“It does impact your performance rating, if you don’t complete the case it tends to be held against you,” Palinkas said, explaining that because officers cannot deny cases the same day as the interview they are incentivized to approve as many applications as they are able.
“We still can’t meet quotas, for lack of a better word, of the volume of cases that we have to put out. Now they’ll pat themselves on the back, saying, ‘Yeah that’s what we handled.’ But I can guarantee you that lots of corners were cut,” Corleto said.
Palinkas explained that the heavy caseload pressure means that immigrants who should not be granted legal status slip through.
“What could happen is you could have an aggravated felon go through the cracks,” Palinkas said, explaining, “if you aren’t given the time, you are not going to make the right decision.”
The pair added that with 99.5% of illegal aliens being approved for legal status under the Obama administration’s deferred action for childhood arrival (DACA) policies, there is a likelihood that fraudulent applications are getting through.
“As far as how much fraud is going to be looked at and those people being subject to possible removal, I would tell you in my past experience, I still would say 90-100 percent of them are going to get approved,” Palinkas said. “I’ve seen in my federal career, where you talk about one fraudulent Social Security number, are you kidding me? You look on a rap sheet you’ll see 20 different names with 20 different Social Security numbers.”
Palinkas explained that he has seen first hand a supervisor deny an officer’s request to reject an application due to fraudulent information.
“The supervisor told that person, ‘We’re not Social Security, let it go,’” he recounted.
“That happens all the time,” Corleto added.
“What you need to know about DACA specifically is there is a waiver for everything,” Palinkas added, “So the chances of being approved once you file that application are virtually 100 percent guaranteed.”
In his prepared testimony to the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday, Crane addressed the current and future issues (if the Senate’s immigration bill becomes law) USCIS officers are facing, in addition to the challenges ICE officers deal with.
“USCIS adjudications officers, who would be deluged with more than 11 million applications filed by illegal aliens seeking legalization, in addition to screening and processing applications for legal admissions, are being prevented from adequately protecting national security even now,” he explained.
“On Monday, Kenneth Palinkas, President of the National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, the union representing 12,000 United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adjudications officers and staff, released a statement that ‘USCIS adjudications officers are pressured to rubber stamp applications instead of conducting diligent case review and investigation,’ he added. ‘The culture at USCIS encourages all applications to be approved, discouraging proper investigation into red flags and discouraging the denial of any applications. USCIS has been turned into an ‘approval machine.’”
Crane and some of his agents have sued the administration for failing to enforce immigration laws passed by Congress. He further testified to some of the issues his ICE officers have faced under those conditions, noting that they are not allowed to: “Arrest individuals for entering the United States illegally or overstaying a visa; Enforce laws regarding fraudulent documents and identity theft by illegal aliens; Enforce the prohibition against aliens becoming public charges.”
“S. 744 does nothing to address these problems. In fact, unbelievably, it gives far greater authority and control to the President and the Secretary of DHS—exactly the opposite of what our country needs to create a consistent and effective immigration system,” he continued. “If the laws enacted by Congress were not enforced following past ‘amnesties,’ and certainly are not being enforced now, what possible reason would the American people have to believe that any new laws passed by Congress will be enforced? Promises of future enforcement, like those in the past, are just empty promises. But the provisions in S. 744 are actually even worse because they undermine enforcement.”