Sunday, July 22, 2007

USCIS Raises Fees While Its Employee Pleads Guilty To Corruption

USCIS is in the process of dramatically hiking its processing fees on July 30 at the same time one of its workers, Jimmie Ortega, 59 years old from Lindenhurst, New York, pled guilty in New York City on July 20 to corruption. Mr. Ortega pled guilty to accepting thousands of dollars in illegal payments to help dozens of people skip (or cheat on) the usual citizenship test and gain citizenship. Mr. Ortega pled guilty and around October will be sentenced, probably between five and six years in prison. Five others pled guilty to being part of the scheme (and the government is charging five others, too). He pled guilty to accepting bribes of up to $3,000 per person between October 2004 and April 2006.

Why is USCIS drastically hiking its fees at the same time its customer service is so lacking? Why does Congress pass on the costs of processing applications to immigrants? The Jimmie Ortega corruption scandal shows that Congress and the US government have a responsibility to pay money and make sure that USCIS is performing its work correctly. We should not be relying on immigrants to pay for national security and quality control measures.

If there is corruption at the lower management level in USCIS, is there any reason to question whether there might also be corruption of a different kind at the higher levels of USCIS management? Why are the new fees so sky-high and where is all the money going? It is hard to tell if anyone is studying the USCIS budget carefully to see whether it is spending money unwisely. USCIS's announcement of the fee hike did not share detailed analysis, explanation, or justification of its overall budget and costs.


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