U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director L. Francis Cissna announced the agency has removed a reference to the U.S. being a "Nation of Immigrants" from its mission statement and will emphasize “securing the homeland” and “protecting Americans.”
Mission Now More in Line with Trump Administration Policies
The new mission statement announced February 22, 2018, falls more in line with the Trump administration’s immigration policies and goals. Since President Donald Trump issued his Buy American and Hire American executive order in April 2017, immigration lawyers have noted that USCIS has shifted its focus to concentrate more on enforcement, strict scrutiny and extreme vetting and less on rolling out a welcome mat to the world.
The belief that the US is a nation of immigrants goes back decades
Presidents of both political parties have long championed the notion of the United States as a nation of immigrants where people from all countries have come together to build a better life for their families. Omitting those words from the mission statement and coupling that with anti-immigrant statements from President Trump, makes it sound like the whole notion is now being questioned.
John F. Kennedy's classic book was entitled 'A Nation of Immigrants'
The Kennedy family is one of the classic American immigrant stories. Patrick Kennedy immigrated to the United States in 1848, escaping grinding poverty in Ireland to establish a family dynasty that continues to this day. But there are countless examples of iconic immigrants contributing critical components to what makes the US such a vibrant and unique country in the world.
“Every American who has ever lived, with the exception of one group, was either an immigrant himself or a descendant of immigrants."
John F. Kennedy
Former USCIS Director Pushes Back on the Change
Many are concerned about this major change for the lead U.S. agency that interfaces with immigrants and is tasked with granting citizenship. Leon Rodriguez, the former Director of USCIS, had this to say in the Washington Post:
"The new mission statement is a faithful articulation of the Trump administration’s policies grounded in the view that immigrants, with a few carefully defined exceptions, are a threat and burden to the United States, rather than the very essence of what has made our country a beacon and an example to the rest of the world.
Regardless of the Trump administration’s rhetoric, we are, always have been and, I am optimistic enough to say even in these times, always will be a “nation of immigrants.”
... And if the idea is that there’s conflict between being a secure nation and a nation of immigrants, my experience running USCIS proves otherwise."
Current USCIS Director Cissna is the son of an immigrant
During Lee Francis Cissna's Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing, he stated “the immigrant experience has always been a fundamental part of my family life, and I would be proud to carry that heritage with me.” Cissna's mother immigrated to the US from Peru and his wife's mother is from the Middle East.
“Our family is literally a product of our nation’s legal immigration system,” he told the Senate Judiciary panel. “Should I be confirmed, these experiences will undoubtedly illuminate everything I do as USCIS director.” Cissna said he grew up speaking Spanish at his parent's home and exclusively speaks Spanish with his children.
Then February 22, 2018, Cissna unveiled a new direction for USCIS agency, changing its long-standing mission statement:
Former Mission Statement
New Mission Statement
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.