Introduction

On May 11 2017 House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte introduced two bills to authorise and reauthorise key immigration component agencies at the US Department of Homeland Security, with the goal of ensuring that US immigration laws are enforced and maintaining the integrity of the immigration system. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives as a whole for consideration on May 24 2017. Authorisation 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.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Authorisation Act

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Authorisation Act (HR 2406) makes reforms to homeland security investigations and enforcement and removal operations within Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The bill also codifies the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office (VOICE), 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.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services Reauthorisation Act

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services Reauthorisation Act (HR 2407) reauthorises US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is tasked with processing immigrant and non-immigrant benefits petitions for those seeking temporary visas, lawful permanent residence and international adoption, among other things. USCIS also adjudicates naturalisation applications and manages the E-Verify system.

Roles and responsibilities within USCIS The text of the act discusses the role of the USCIS director, the USCIS deputy director and agents and officers of USCIS. The section also details duties and roles within the Office of Homeland Security Investigations, the Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations and the Office of Management and Administration, among others. Specifically, under the bill, the USCIS director must have at least five years of management experience. The director is responsible for running the agency and establishing national immigration services policies and priorities.

The bill also authorises:

  • the Field Operations Directorate, whose associate director is responsible for managing all USCIS field offices and overseeing the adjudication of immigration benefits applications and petitions, applicant interviews, naturalisation ceremonies and background checks for those applying or petitioning for benefits;
  • the Service Centre Operations Directorate, whose associate director oversees the five USCIS service centres responsible for adjudicating benefits for petitions that do not require interviews; and
  • 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 programmes such as parole.

The bill further codifies ethics guidelines to prevent USCIS employees from improperly influencing the outcome of a case.

Fraud prevention and national security In response to much of the current rhetoric on 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 authorises the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate, whose associate director is responsible for ensuring that immigration benefits are not granted to individuals who pose a threat to national security or public safety, or who seek to defraud the immigration system.

Citizenship responsibilities The bill authorises the Office of Citizenship to promote instruction and training on citizenship responsibilities, as well as assimilation, for eligible aliens who are interested in becoming naturalised citizens of the United States. The bill aims to ensure that the External Affairs Directorate Office provides clear, accurate and timely responses to inquiries from applicants or petitioners, and operates transparently.

E-Verify 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 authorise the E-Verify programme and require employers to use it. Like the bill introduced by Senator Grassley, the Goodlatte bill makes voluntary E-Verify permanent. It also authorises the Immigration Record and Identity Services Directorate, whose associate director is responsible for managing E-Verify and the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements programme, as well as overseeing USCIS's biometrics collection services and historical records management and storage.

For further information on this topic please contact Melissa B Winkler at Fakhoury Law Group PC by telephone (+1 248 643 4900) or email (melissa@employmentimmigration.com). The Fakhoury Law Group PC website can be accessed at www.employmentimmigration.com.

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