The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was sharply criticized Thursday for rewriting its mission statement so it no longer describes the United States as a "nation of immigrants" and now features language that seems more aligned with the policies touted by the Trump administration.
The Trump administration doesn’t try to hide its xenophobia. USCIS mission statement was changed to remove the phrase, “America’s promise as a nation of immigrants” https://t.co/Wa81jTipY3 pic.twitter.com/eJDD3A30HJ
— ACLU of Oregon (@ACLU_OR) February 22, 2018
The new version, as first reported by Ryan Devereaux at The Intercept, 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.
The previous version was:
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 change was announced in an email—obtained by The Intercept—sent to staff from the agency's director, L. Francis Cissna, who focused on the decision to remove the term "customers."
"[W]e should never allow our work to be regarded as a mere production line or even described in business or commercial terms," Cissna reportedly wrote. "Use of the term leads to the erroneous belief that applicants and petitioners, rather than the American people, are whom we ultimately serve."
One former USCIS staffer commented that because the agency is largely funded by fees, the use of the term was "actually quite accurate."
Also worth noting that @USCIS is one of the few agencies that is almost entirely funded by fees, so it's actually quite accurate to talk about customer service.
— Shin Inouye (@shin_inouye) February 22, 2018
A spokesperson from USCIS sent a written statement to The Intercept after the article was published. The agency confirmed that the new mission statement is "effective immediately," and, when asked whether it no longer considers the United States a "nation of immigrants," said, "The statement speaks for itself."
Immigrant rights advocates and others expressed outrage over the new mission statement, which seems to capture the Trump administration's vision for the agency:
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— MIRA Coalition (@MIRACoalition) February 22, 2018
This should be ALARMING to every single person in this country. The United States HAS ALWAYS prided itself on being a nation of immigrants - why else do we have the Statue of Liberty? JFC AMERICA WAKE UP! https://t.co/vE6C1Bx3A0
— Juan Escalante (@JuanSaaa) February 22, 2018
Several critics were particularly upset with the decision to cut the phrase "nation of immigrants":
(a) This is BS and ridiculous
— Philip Wolgin (@pwolgin) February 22, 2018
The President can erase “nation of immigrants” from the #USCIS mission statement, but he cannot erase our nation’s legacy or our shared #American values. Thankfully, both will long outlast Pres. #Trump. https://t.co/MNUoImwtXT
— Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) February 22, 2018
Other observers noted how the new mission statement captures the anti-immigrant sentiment embedded in American history, and which has become commonplace in the Trump era—as well as how "USCIS morphed into an anti-immigration agency from one that administered immigration benefits."
To be fair, the US has throughout much of its history been exceedingly unfriendly to many immigrants.
Nonetheless, it is some A-grade mask slippage for the Trump administration to *remove* language nodding to a "nation of immigrants."
— Ali Gharib (@Ali_Gharib) February 22, 2018
Hey reporters - this is pretty symbolic of what's happened at this agency. You really shouldn't let this go without informing the public, most of whom don't understand how @uscis morphed into an anti-immigration agency from one that administered immigration benefits.
— (((Greg Siskind))) (@gsiskind) February 22, 2018