Friday, December 01, 2006

Alleged USCIS Misconduct

There have been some news stories with allegations of misconduct by USCIS officials. Maria Barillas, a USCIS officer in LA, allegedly forged visa and issued a false visa in 2003-2004 before finally being arrested September 13, 2006. Between January and September 2006, five USCIS officials have been charged with misconduct. Phillip Browne, USCIS officer in NYC, was arrested June 7, 2006 for allegedly working with others to arrange fake marriages and issue green cards. Robert Schofield, supervisory USCIS officer in Virginia, was arrested June 29, 2006 for allegedly falsifying citizenship certificates.

Update: On November 30, 2006, Robert Schofield pled guilty to taking over $600,000 in bribes to give fake immigration documents for hundreds of immigrants seeking citizenship. Sentencing is scheduled for February 23, 2007. According to newspaper reports, he actually was demoted once for conduct unbecoming a government employee and fled overseas when INS confronted him about an inappropriate relationship with someone involved in a criminal investigation. It is not clear how he returned to the US and eventually became one of the naturalization supervisors.

Several newspapers reported on October 27, 2006 that a 20-count indictment was unsealed in U.S. District Court in New York City that charges Jimmie Ortega (who used to be a supervising officer of USCIS) with soliciting bribes to approve naturalization applications that should not have been approved. Newspapers also reported that another indictment charged Oscar Fabregas, another supervising official at USCIS, with conspiracy to charge between $1,500 to $4,000 for bribes to approve ineligible naturalization applications. Of course, criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless actually found guilty.

Some former officials wonder whether USCIS is able to follow up with the more than 3,000 internal complaints it has on record. If USCIS may be having difficulty checking on officers who improperly approve bad applications, I wonder whether it will ever get around to checking up on USCIS officers who improperly deny perfectly good applications.


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