Pressure from the Obama administration to rubber-stamp citizenship applicants and the failure of the Department of Homeland Security to properly train personnel and give them the tools to vet those applications have jeopardized U.S. national security, federal law enforcement officials and a Homeland Security union leader told TheBlaze.
New U.S. citizens participate in a swearing-in during a naturalization ceremony Aug. 13, 2013 in Fairfax, Va. (Getty Images)
Kenneth Palinkas, president of the National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, the union representing 12,000 United States Citizenship and Immigration Services officers and staff, told TheBlaze Congress needs to investigate why his agency has been left without proper tools to screen applicants and made the nation vulnerable.
Palinkas said employees are required by administrative orders "to grant immigration benefits to those who, under law, are not properly eligible."
Further, approval quotas placed on adjudicators -- personnel that conduct the interviews of prospective citizens -- emphasize clearing applications faster than they can be vetted and lead to a majority of prospective applications being approved for entry into the U.S.
"USCIS adjudications officers lack the mission support to safely screen and review applicants for immigration benefits," Palinkas said in a press release obtained by TheBlaze in advance of planned distribution on Thursday. "This includes the inability to conduct in-person interviews, the failure of our software system, the lack of training and office space, and pressure to rubber-stamp applications. We have become an approval machine."
"We have become an approval machine," says U.S. immigration services union president.
Palinkas said in a phone interview that administration officials have created obstacles that have made it impossible for his employees to take the time necessary to adjudicate applicants, and that House members have ignored his calls to investigate.
He said Congress needs to probe the multiple failures in the agency, including:
- Why adjudications officers lack the mission support to safely screen and review applicants for immigration benefits
- The failure to thoroughly conduct in-person interviews
- The failure of the software system
- The lack of training and office space
- The pressure to rubber-stamp applications
- The failure to protect taxpayers from abuses of the welfare system by those granted immigration benefits
- A management culture that sees illegal aliens and foreign nationals -- not U.S. citizens and taxpayers -- as the customer: "We believe in treating all with respect and always will, but our agency's focus must be keeping the country safe and secure on behalf of the American people."
Palinkas said a move by Republican members to push through piecemeal immigration legislation from the House to the Senate without resolving the current failures in the system would be detrimental for the country.
"I worry the House may be following a similar path," he said.
Last week, TheBlaze reported that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, along with other senior House leaders, have been working to move forward with legislation to open citizenship benefits to illegal aliens residing in the United States.
There is also growing concern among some Republican House members that leaders within their own party are working to get the bills passed to the Senate, leading to private "conference" meetings where House and Senate leaders will compromise on a comprehensive immigration bill that guts border security.
"These plans are being pursued before first reforming the very agency - USCIS - that will be charged with reviewing these tens of millions of green card, temporary visa and citizenship applications," Palinkas said. "Advancing such measures without first confronting the widespread abuses at USCIS would be to invite disaster. Why aren't USCIS officers being consulted on this 'compromise' offer?"
"It's business as usual until one of the applicants... launches another terrorist attack."
Seven years ago an investigation by this reporter regarding USCIS led to numerous congressional hearings, but little has changed. In August 2006, House members called for a review and hearing after reports surfaced that adjudicators were not checking applications against the terrorist watch list.
In fact, Homeland Security officials said they opted out of training most adjudicators on how to access the terrorist database -- a simple key stroke that would have allowed them to fully check the background. The report was based on federal documents and numerous interviews with employees at the National Benefits Center in Lee's Summit, Mo., where most applications are processed.
"Nothing has changed," a Homeland Security official told TheBlaze on condition of anonymity. "More than six years since the first hearings and nothing is different - not really. How many House hearings in between and it's business as usual until one of the applicants we've allowed into the country successfully launches another terrorist attack inside the U.S."
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