Sunday, January 20, 2008

USCIS Naturalization Supervisor Sentenced For Taking Bribes

According to the New York Times, New York Newsday, and the North County Gazette, former USCIS naturalization supervisor Jimmie Ortega was sentenced this month in federal district court in New York City to 42 months in prison for taking bribes to approve citizenship applications by people who were not able to pass the tests legitimately. The newspapers report that Mr. Ortega used his position as an adjudications officer from 2004 to 2006 to approve at least 20 applications that should have been denied, in exchange for illegal payments.

At the same time that USCIS is drastically increasing its fees, it has an ugly scandal of bribes being paid to USCIS employees to approve applicants who could not pass the citizenship tests. With a supposed focus on fraud by immigrants, it may make sense for more of a focus to be put on USCIS employees and officers to find out whether a small number of them may be ruling improperly on applications they receive.

It makes you wonder whether Mr. Ortega perhaps tried to cover his tracks by finding ways to reject applications that otherwise would have been valid to make up for how he was approving applications that should have been denied. It would be interesting for someone in USCIS to analyze his statistics and see whether that might have happened.

Adjudications officers should live up to a high level of integrity and honesty. It may be hard to analyze afterwards whether an officer used his discretion in a way that is hard to detect later to make it tough for someone to pass a test.


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