The insidious racism harbored by the Trump administration is revealed by an update to the core mission of the Department of Immigration.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the official agency tasked with granting visas and citizenship, has changed its mission statement – effective on Thursday.
The previous mission statement read:
“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.”
The updated 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.”
NBC News reported that:
“The agency’s new mission statement was developed and debuted within the agency by USCIS Director Cissna during his first conference with USCIS senior leadership from around the world,” a USCIS public affairs officer said in a statement to NBC News. “It reflects the director’s guiding principles for the agency. This includes a focus on fairness, lawfulness and efficiency, protecting American workers, and safeguarding the homeland.”
The Washington Post reported that Cissna, a Trump appointee, made the announcement to agency employees in a letter:
In his letter to USCIS employees, director L. Francis Cissna explained that the new statement is “simple, straightforward” and “clearly defines the agency’s role.” He provided no explanation for the elimination of “America’s promise as a nation of immigrants.” USIS spokespeople declined to explain the decision.
“The American people, through Congress, have entrusted USCIS with the stewardship of our legal immigration programs that allow foreign nationals to visit, work, live, and seek refuge in the United States,” Cissna wrote. “We are also responsible for ensuring that those who naturalize are dedicated to this country, share our values, assimilate into our communities, and understand their responsibility to help preserve our freedom and liberty.”
Cissna also wrote that the new mission statement no longer referred to visa applicants as “customers” as “a reminder that we are always working for the American people.”
“What we do at USCIS is so important to our nation, so meaningful to the applicants and petitioners, and the nature of the work is often so complicated, that we should never allow our work to be regarded as a mere production line or even described in business or commercial terms. In particular, referring to applicants and petitioners for immigration benefits, and the beneficiaries of such applications and petitions, as “customers” promotes an institutional culture that emphasizes the ultimate satisfaction of applicants and petitioners, rather than the correct adjudication of such applications and petitions according to the law. Use of the term leads to the erroneous belief that applicants and petitioners, rather than the American people, are whom we ultimately serve.”
NPR reported that the mission statement change was not welcomed by groups opposing Trump’s immigration policy. Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at D.C.-based Human Rights First issued the following statement:
“Our nation is one built by immigrants—removing this language does nothing to change that fact, it only reveals the insidious racism harbored by those in this administration. It is clear from the language and policies put forth by President Trump and his hard-line immigration extremists that they will stop at nothing to demonize and dehumanize immigrants and refugees, who have often fled violence and persecution in search for a better life for themselves and their children.”
The Washington Post concluded their article on the change, reporting on feedback from Michael Knowles, the President of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1924, the union that represents the USCIS employees:
The image of America as a nation of immigrants is a narrative — or a myth — that each U.S. administration has treated differently but has been considered a bedrock principle, he said, noting that this change officially erases it from the agency’s mission. “At least everyone talked about that myth, the American promise, the American Dream,” Knowles said.