The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the U.S. agency given the responsibility to award U.S. citizenship to immigrants. However, last Thursday, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced it will be changing its mission statement.
USCIS’s prior mission statement read: “USCIS secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system.”
While the previous mission statement aligned with the U.S. founding principles of acceptance from all cultures, the new mission statement creates mixed feelings.
It now reads: “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland and honoring our values.”
Notice the difference?
The most notable phrase removed from the mission statement is undoubtedly, “nation of immigrants.” Growing up, perhaps you heard our nation compared to a salad bowl––all peoples from different walks of life contributing diverse elements to help make our country unique.
This salad bowl mentality is one of my favorite aspects of American culture. Nowhere else in the world has as many cultures and backgrounds come together as in America. I grew up attending school with students from countries I knew nothing about, and at my university I continue to learn and grow in cultures I have little knowledge of.
With the abrupt end of the DACA program and the dreams our current president has of “building a wall,” it is disappointing to see USCIS bow down, but it is certainly not surprising.
Francis Cissna, USCIS’s director, said, “I believe this simple, straightforward statement clearly defines the agency’s role in our country’s lawful immigration system and the commitment we have to the American people.”
I support the legal immigration system and citizenship processes our country has in place, but with recent events and now the shift from the USCIS, I can’t help but believe our country is getting dangerously close to becoming a nation of exclusion––if I can argue it hasn’t already.
Human Rights First Director Eleanor Acer addressed the issue perfectly in a comment to Newsweek when she said, “We cannot separate ‘immigrants’ from Americans––we are intrinsically linked as children, parents, neighbors and loved ones. By seeking to distinguish the two, the administration is turning its back on our nation’s proud history and engaging in dangerous revisionism.”
In history classes, I was taught the U.S. is a place for all people. After all, this country was founded by individuals who were escaping persecution and oppression. Hundreds of years later, there are still thousands of people facing persecution and oppression in the world today.
Refugees and immigrants flee to the U.S. to make a better life. Throughout the world, the U.S. is known as the country where dreams come true, where freedom is reality and where equality is given to all.
Well, we used to be anyway.
The USCIS’s mission statement change is not something to take lightly. This is a dangerous step toward reshaping American history and culture.