United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was created after the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks as part of a strategy to improve security in the US. As the country nears the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, USCIS director Alejandro Mayorkas has detailed the progress his department has made in implementing recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission Report of 24 July 2004.
“Respecting and celebrating our tradition as a nation of immigrants strengthens our communities and helps ensure that people of diverse backgrounds share in the rights and freedoms guaranteed under our Constitution,” Mayorkas said in a blog post.
“After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, USCIS was created as part of a new national homeland security enterprise to confront and defend against the evolving threats we face and to make America more resilient when a crisis occurs,” he added.
“Its creation was premised upon the basic tenet that for our immigration system to work, we must be able to protect our national security.”
In response to the 9/11 Commission Report Recommendations, Mayorkas said that USCIS implemented a number of new measures to help combat immigration fraud. These include:
- a redesigned Permanent Resident Card (commonly known as the Green Card); Improvements include a radio frequency identification tag that allows Customs and Border Protection to quickly access electronic records of travelers seeking to enter the United States and new features which reduce the risk of counterfeiting, tampering, and fraud
- a redesigned Certificate of Naturalization which utilizes a tamper-proof printing process and embedded digitized photos and signatures
- Adding a machine readable zone to Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) to make it easier for border control officers to identify people eligible for immigration benefits and who have been previously reviewed by USCIS officers
- an enhanced partnership with the Forensic Document Laboratory which will make it easier to detect fraudulent documents used to seek immigration benefits
Mayorkas also stated that USCIS has enhanced its sharing of information with other federal departments including the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTFFs) and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s National Security Unit.
“Our efforts reflect our commitment to oversee lawful immigration to the United States by strengthening the security and integrity of our nations immigration system while providing effective customer-oriented immigration benefit and information services,” Mayorkas concluded.
USCIS was one of the US government departments hardest hit by new security measures implemented after 9/11.
One of the measures was to require passports for travelers entering to and from Canada and parts of Mexico which previously only required state-issued ID. This resulted in a huge backlog of applications for passports.
In addition, notice of impending large USCIS fee increases implemented a few years ago as a measure to help fund USCIS operations caused many people to apply for immigration benefits before the deadline. Many people were forced to wait as much as a year for naturalization as a result.
USCIS has since reduced the backlog of immigration and passport applications to normal levels.
19 Aug 2011
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9/11: US immigration ten years on
Posted on August 22, 2011