Many of you may know our firm files a lot of cases for physicians. I co-write a treatise on the subject and chair a national organization of physician immigration lawyers. So when we got a request for evidence today from the USCIS Vermont Service Center questioning whether an employer filing for an H-1B visa for a physician really needs someone with a bachelors degree to fill the job of a physician, you’re left wondering whether to laugh or scream. Maybe they thought the job was for a witch doctor. Or a spin doctor.
We learned as well today that another firm got the same request for evidence today for a doctor so this can’t be called an isolated incident.
If this weren’t all too common, maybe it wouldn’t be worth writing about in my blog. But immigration lawyers across American get these kinds of things every day. And most simply respond to these ridiculous evidence requests by giving the officer what they ask for and never calling USCIS to the carpet on this.
I’ve had an idea for years for how to reduce the number of abusive or downright silly decisions that come from USCIS (and the Department of Labor and Department of State). Make examiners actually have to sign their decisions. Immigration officers at the regional services centers are one of a small group of agencies that get to issue life changing decisions with complete anonymity. If you get audited by the IRS, investigated by the SEC, etc. the government official doing the auditing or investigating doesn’t do it anonymously. Even USCIS local office examiners that interview applicants for green cards don’t get to do their jobs anonymously.
The reason why this change would matter so much is it would force examiners to think about whether they would be comfortable with their decisions making front page news. Chances are it would force people to use a little common sense before sending out something like the RFE we got today. Also, if there is a pattern of certain officers abusing their positions or showing incompetence, the public will be in a better position to hold USCIS accountable. Finally, because officers operate in anonymity, there is no way to determine if the officer has a conflict of interest. For example, let’s say the officer was fired by a company or a law firm that files an application. Under the current rules, there is no way to ever learn this.
I once asked a USCIS senior official why they have this policy and was told that it was out of fear of retribution being taken against the officer. Which was really completely insulting to America’s immigrants and also an excuse that other agencies wouldn’t dare to make. We have “sunshine laws” that apply to local, state and federal agencies which prevent government officials from being able to operate secretly. It’s about time we moved away from the culture of secrecy at USCIS. The agency’s officers should be prepared to stand by their decisions.