By statute, the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman submits an Annual Report to Congress by June 30 of each year. The Ombudsman’s Annual Report must provide a summary of the most pervasive and serious problems encountered by individuals and employers applying for immigration benefits with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The Annual Report also reviews past recommendations to improve USCIS programs and services.
Annual Report 2015
The 2015 reporting period was a momentous one for immigration. On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced significant new executive actions to help fix our broken immigration system … An ambitious undertaking, the executive actions demanded the attention of USCIS Director León Rodriguez and many key leaders in the immigration service. At the same time, longstanding challenges in existing immigration programs likewise require agency attention and action … At this inflection point in the history of our nation’s immigration policy, I believe more than ever in the Ombudsman’s statutory charge of assisting individuals and employers with problems with USCIS both through case assistance and policy recommendations.
Ombudsman Maria M. Odom's message to Congress on June 29, 2015.
Annual Report Highlights
Executive Immigration Reform: On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a series of executive actions to “fix our nation’s broken immigration system.” Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson published at that same time multiple policy memoranda to implement the announced executive immigration reforms. These include new USCIS initiatives as well as new regulations and policies for immigration enforcement, family unity, and businesses hiring foreign workers.
Families and Children: USCIS began accepting DACA renewal applications in June 2014, continuing to provide discretionary relief to hundreds of thousands of young people. Approximately 15 percent of requests for case assistance submitted to the Ombudsman involved DACA renewal processing delays. This year, Secretary Johnson directed USCIS to expand the Provisional Waiver program and to clarify “extreme hardship” factors, which will assist numerous families who would have otherwise faced long periods of separation. Additionally, in December 2014, USCIS implemented the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program.
Employment: U.S. immigration policy fosters economic growth, responds to labor market needs, and enhances U.S. global competitiveness. In this year’s Annual Report, the Ombudsman reviews issues involving temporary nonimmigrant petitions (H-2A, H-2B, H-1B, L-1, and O-1), investor immigrant petitions (EB-5), immigrant petitions, and employment authorization applications. As discussed in Annual Reports since 2008, the Ombudsman continues to be concerned with the quality and consistency of adjudications and the issuance of unduly burdensome Requests for Evidence.
Humanitarian: U.S. immigration law provides humanitarian relief for immigrants in the most desperate situations. This reporting period, USCIS developed and implemented the In-Country Refugee/Parole Program for Central American Minors in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The Ombudsman continues to be concerned with adjudications issues and processing delays in Special Immigrant Juvenile petitions, fee waiver requests, and asylum applications.
Interagency, Customer Service, and Process Integrity: In this Annual Report, the Ombudsman focuses on the proper delivery of USCIS notices and documents; recording or withdrawal of legal representation; USCIS’ calculation of processing times; and Transformation, the agency’s ongoing effort to move from a paper-based to an electronic environment.