For decades, the mission statement of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services referred to the U.S. as a “nation of immigrants.” This was a reference to the country’s long history as a destination for immigrants from all over the world who wanted a chance at a better life.
Not anymore—the agency has abruptly dropped this description from its new mission statement. The USCIS sent letters to its employees on Thursday announcing a new mission statement that no longer characterizes the agency as “securing America’s promise as a nation of immigrants.”
Another detail that changed is how the mission statement addresses immigration applicants. While the previous mission statement referred to people who apply for immigration benefits as “customers,” the new statement does away with this practice. A spokesperson for the agency said that the word was removed because it “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.”
There is also a concerning addition to the agency’s mission. The new statement makes reference to the USCIS “protecting Americans and safeguarding the homeland.” The seemingly-innocuous phrase actually carries a lot of weight. The statement seems to imply that people who are applying for visas and citizenship benefits may pose a threat to Americans and the homeland.
These changes seems ominous to many immigration activists, who worry that these seemingly-small details are emblematic of a much larger anti-immigration sentiment at the USCIS. The agency’s mission may reflect a new set of guiding principles. If the USCIS’s new mission statement is any indicator, the agency seems to be pivoting from processing visas and citizenship applications to aggressively challenging and limiting these applications.