(8) POLICY: CIS Ombudsman Refusal to Provide Services or Take Complaints from Spouse, Sponsor or Victim/Witness/Informant


Summary:

Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Ombudsman refuses to assist any U.S. Citizen or individual who is in opposition to any immigrant application. Although the CIS Ombudsman claims to be an impartial entity, he refuses to engage with U.S. Citizen Sponsors and Spouses.

The CIS Ombudsman has made multiple claims stating that he is incapable of assisting any individual who does not have a “pending application.” This argument, however, is flawed for two reasons: (1) Section 452 of the Homeland Security Act which provides the legal authority for the CIS Ombudsman, does not mention any requirement that a case be open or pending before the CIS Ombudsman may assist the complainant and (2) One of the principal complaints Sponsors/Spouses is the unlawful practice of denying individuals any ability to participate in any proceeding, adversely affecting them. Therefore, denying Sponsors/Spouses access to CIS Ombudsman services because they have been denied their right to participate in the proceeding ensures spouses/sponsors will never have an opportunity to receive CIS Ombudsman services.

Specifically section 452 of the Homeland Security Act states that the 3 functions of the CIS ombudsman are as follows:

1) To assist individuals and employers in resolving problems with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services;

2) To identify areas in which individuals and employers have problems in dealing with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services; and

3) To the extent possible, to propose changes in the administrative practices of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services to mitigate problems identified under paragraph (2).

Nowhere within the functions of CIS does it limit the CIS Ombudsman’s ability to serve individuals based only on whether they have a case pending with USCIS. Nowhere does it state that the CIS Ombudsman may only provide services to the individuals he chooses at whim. 

The Act goes further to require the CIS Ombudsman to engage with the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and provide reports as follows:

(c) ANNUAL REPORTS -

1) OBJECTIVES - Not later than June 30 of each calendar year, the Ombudsman shall report to the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives and the Senate on the objectives of the Office of the Ombudsman for the fiscal year beginning in such calendar year. Any such report shall contain full and substantive analysis, in addition to statistical information, and -

(A) Shall identify the recommendation the Office of the Ombudsman has made on improving services and responsiveness of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services;

(B) Shall contain a summary of the most pervasive and serious problems encountered by individuals and employers, including a description of the nature of such problems;

(C) Shall contain an inventory of the items described in subparagraphs (A) and (B) for which action has been taken and the result of such action;

(D) Shall contain an inventory of the items described in subparagraphs (A) and (B) for which action remains to be completed and the period during which each item has remained on such inventory;

(E) Shall contain an inventory of the items described in subparagraphs (A) and (B) for which no action has been taken, the period during which each item has remained on such inventory, the reasons for the inaction, and shall identify any official of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services who is responsible for such inaction;

(F) Shall contain recommendations for such administrative action as may be appropriate to resolve problems encountered by individuals and employers, including problems created by excessive backlogs in the adjudication and processing of immigration benefit petitions and applications; and

(G) Shall include such other information as the Ombudsman may deem advisable.

2) REPORT TO BE SUBMITTED DIRECTLY- Each report required under this subsection shall be provided directly to the committees described in paragraph (1) without any prior comment or amendment from the Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Director of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, or any other officer or employee of the Department or the Office of Management and Budget.

The House of Representatives & the Senate are NOT receiving complete and unadulterated information. Instead, the CIS Ombudsman is failing to incorporate ANY information submitted to the office regarding sponsors, spouses, victims, witnesses and informants and those issues, injustices and rights violations which affect those individuals. The Committees are completely unaware of these issues, because the CIS Ombudsman chooses not to serve this particular demographic. It is partly because of the CIS Ombudsman’s discrimination against these individuals, that the system has gotten out of control, and is 100% adverse, to the rights of these individuals, as all information presented to the Committees and therefore remedial actions that have been taken, have only been those that benefit the immigrant, even if such actions harm Americans and the United States in general. 

(d) OTHER RESPONSIBILITIES- The Ombudsman—

1) shall monitor the coverage and geographic allocation of local offices of the Ombudsman;

2) shall develop guidance to be distributed to all officers and employees of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services outlining the criteria for referral of inquiries to local offices of the Ombudsman;

3) shall ensure that the local telephone number for each local office of the Ombudsman is published and available to individuals and employers served by the office; and

4) shall meet regularly with the Director of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services to identify serious service problems and to present recommendations for such administrative action as may be appropriate to resolve problems encountered by individuals and employers.

Many issues facing victims, witnesses and informants could more easily be resolved through administrative actions. However, the Director of USCIS remain completely unaware of the breadth of issues which victims, witnesses and informants face because the CIS Ombudsman, tasked with informing USCIS of such issues, refuses to serve victims, witnesses and informants all together. 

Despite the clearly set forth functions by the Homeland Security Act, the Ombudsman refuses to engage with U.S. Citizens and/or any individual in opposition to an immigrant application and an Ombudsman who serves this demographic must be established so that victims, witnesses and informants have equal access to justice.

National Security:

The House of Representatives and the Senate are being denied access to the complaint information of sponsors, spouses, victims, witnesses and informants which are presented to the CIS Ombudsman and denied by the Ombudsman. The CIS Ombudsman is essentially functioning to cover up any national security issues which may otherwise be exposed by those individuals who have firsthand knowledge of the loopholes and security threats within the system.

A separate entity, outside of the CIS Ombudsman, must be established which will serve this underrepresented demographic.

Other Legal Issues:

Current CIS Ombudsman: Julie Kirchner, refuses to respond to voicemails left by ICVA. There is no other contact information making it impossible to discuss any of the issues raised with current CIS Ombudsman Kirchner.

Previous CIS Ombudsman: Gary N. Merson had a career history of working for an immigration law firm and as an “Advocacy Associate” with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

AILA’s goal as stated on their website, “Educate the public about the ways in which U.S. immigration law and policy serves the national interest by reuniting American families, protecting refugees, and providing U.S. employers with the specialized skills they need to remain globally competitive.” AILA is well-known for advocating for only immigrant populations and has never, to my knowledge helped any victim, witness or informant, supported any action or legislation which would positively affect a victim, witness or informant,  nor does their website have any information which would be beneficial to a victim, witness or informant.

Essentially, Mr. Merson’s career prior to serving as CIS Ombudsman was to advocate for immigrants. It appears Mr. Merson continued to advocate for immigrants through his use of his official position to deny anyone other than immigrant applicants an opportunity to utilize the CIS Ombudsman’s services, and deny those who wish to provide input regarding corrupt internal policies an opportunity to have issues affecting them included in any reports.

A standard requirement for any CIS Ombudsman should be (1) Experience in Administrative Law and (2) A clear history of impartial unbiased work.

It has been ICVA’s experience, that we are incapable of finding a single immigration attorney within the United States, willing to represent any victim, witness or informant when such representation would oppose an immigrant.  Given Mr. Merson’s career history it is not surprising that such bias occurred at the CIS Ombudsman office during his term.