For the first time in more than two years, US Citizenship and Immigration Services has a Senate-confirmed leader. Ur Jaddou is now the first woman and person of Mexican and Arab descent to get the job.
What does this mean for immigration policy in the United States?
Role of USCIS
USCIS is an integral part of the immigration system in the United States. USCIS is responsible for issuing work permits, providing green cards, screening asylum seekers, naturalizations and other tasks. The previous administration shifted the focus of USCIS from efficiently screening and providing immigration benefits to implementing policies that make it more difficult for immigrants to enter the United States. It also proposed a charge for asylum applications, denial of permanent residency to immigrants judged to be likely to use public benefits and limited protections at the United States border.
Changes at USCIS
The current administration has taken steps to reverse immigration restrictions and change the way the agency and the public talk about immigrants by no longer using the term “aliens.” It has also eliminated the means test for green cards and the increased demands for personal information, such as DNA tests, eye scans and voice prints from immigrants.
Policy experts expect the new director to continue the trend toward more immigrant-friendly policies, but she will also confront challenges, such as the $1.2 billion budget deficit currently faced by the agency. The agency generates most of its income through application fees, so policies that encourage more immigrants to apply may move the agency closer to both its political and financial goals.