U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) made changes to its mission statement on Feb. 22, taking out the phrases “secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants” and “promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship,” and adding the words “protecting Americans, securing the homeland.”
The word “customer” was also removed from the statement.
USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna explained the change, saying, “Use of the term leads to the erroneous belief that applicants and petitioners, rather than the American people, are whom we ultimately serve.” He also stated that the agency’s priorities include “protecting American workers [and] safeguarding the homeland.”
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC and Asian Americans Advancing Justice | LA released the following statement in response:
“As U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services’ name clearly states, its purpose is to serve citizens and immigrants, not function as law enforcement. This change is just one of a daily onslaught of attacks on immigrant communities that is rooted in nativism and fear-mongering about immigrants. Director Cissna can change the words on a website but he cannot change our nation’s core values as a nation of immigrants.
“Advancing Justice will continue to closely monitor USCIS’ policy changes and actions, and fight for the right of all Americans, including immigrant Americans, to sponsor close family members and to become U.S. citizens.
“The ‘petitioners’ that Director Cissna refers to are actually American people and the ‘applicants’ are future Americans (immigrants). There are more than 20 million naturalized citizens, with immigrants from Asia being the largest group of naturalized citizens. As of 2014, 8.9 million lawful permanent residents were eligible to naturalize.
“We will work even harder to assist Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and other immigrants to naturalize, both to protect to protect themselves from this administration and to fully participate in our democracy.”
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena) released the following reaction:
“In Southern California, we are a majority minority region and thriving because of it. Deleting words cannot change that reality, and it cannot change our history. But it does embolden those who want to find irrational reasons for discrimination. It comes as no surprise that this change came one day before Trump once again portrayed immigrants as criminals to the conservative CPAC audience, despite the truth that immigrants commit fewer crimes. They cannot win on the facts and so they are trying to win through narrative. They’re going to be disappointed.
“This is a cosmetic change in every sense of the word. It changes appearances, not reality. And, like cosmetics, it’s all about color. The truth of this presidency was laid bare when he told senators that he wants more immigrants from countries like Norway, not from ‘s—hole countries’ in Africa. Or how he smears family immigration when used by Asians and Latinos, but is silent on whether or not it was a good policy for his own in-laws. The truth is, we are a nation of immigrants and we are better off for it.
“Someday, this administration will be gone, but our exceptional status as a country where anybody from anywhere in the world can be a productive citizen will remain.”