U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services unveiled a new mission statement Feb. 22 striking out the phrase “nation of immigrants,” which many community organizations believe to be furthering the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda.
“Unless you can trace your heritage to a Native American group, every single person living in the United States is an immigrant,” said Indian American Suhag Shukla, executive director of the Hindu American Foundation. “The removal of language recognizing this fact runs directly counter to our history and the very ethos of this nation. America is great because it is a nation of immigrants,” she said in a press statement.
HAF managing director Samir Kalra added: “What is needed to fix the U.S. immigration system is not a revised mission statement, but comprehensive immigration reform that not only acknowledges, but embraces the strength immigrants have brought to this country, and at the same time, is fair and clear so as to encourage and ensure abidance with the rule of law.”
In its old mission statement, USCIS acknowledged the contributions of immigrants, stating: “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.”
But the new mission statement reads as follows: “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.”
USCIS director Francis Cissna has described the changes as being “simple,” and “straightforward.”
“Use of the term (nation of immigrants) leads to the erroneous belief that applicants and petitioners, rather than the American people, are whom we ultimately serve,” said Cissna. He added that USCIS’s priorities include “protecting American workers” and “safeguarding the homeland.”
Rep. Judy, Chu, D-Calif., who chairs the Congressional Asian American Political Caucus, noted in a press release Feb. 23 that the new mission statement was unveiled the day before President Donald Trump portrayed immigrants as criminals in his speech at CPAC – the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
Trump also lumped immigrants in with MS13 gang members in his State of the Union address.
“In Southern California, we are a majority minority region and thriving because of it. Deleting words cannot change that reality, and it cannot change our history. But it does embolden those who want to find irrational reasons for discrimination,” said Chu, adding that the changes were cosmetic, and – like cosmetics – based on the color of one’s skin.
“We are a nation of immigrants and we are better off for it,” said Chu.
The organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice also condemned the new mission statement. “This change is just one of a daily onslaught of attacks on immigrant communities that is rooted in nativism and fear-mongering about immigrants. Director Cissna can change the words on a website but he cannot change our nation’s core values as a nation of immigrants.”