Immigration Agency’s Love Affair with Univision

There’s nothing like a hard-hitting reporter holding the government accountable. Just ask U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials, who this month planted a wet kiss on their favorite journalist — for being the story.

The immigration agency heaped praise on Juan Carlos Gutierrez, a Univision reporter who won an Emmy for documenting his personal journey to citizenship. The agency’s blog, The Beacon, twice referred to him as an “award-winning journalist” in a post last week.

“We are honored that he collaborated with us last year to share his story with our readers in our Beacon blog and that his story continues to inspire others.”

“We are honored that he collaborated with us last year to share his story with our readers in our Beacon blog and that his story continues to inspire others to fulfill their own American dream of becoming U.S. Citizens,” the post states.

For his part, Gutierrez wrote that people do not realize how easy it is to become a citizen.

“They do not know how accessible are all forms and how understanding are the immigration officers,” he wrote. “The key is to start the process. It’s something I wanted to do because it was what I owed to this country, to then be part of the democracy and vote, and get the benefits of being a citizen.”

Gutierrez thanked the agency on Twitter last week for “facilitating everything to tell my story about my citizenship. We won the Emmy.”

The agency responded by tweeting that Univision's story "will inspire you to become a #newUScitizen!"

So much for speaking truth to power.

The USCIS has come under fire during President Obama's tenure for speeding citizenship applications with little scrutiny. The head of the union representing 12,000 employees complained in 2013 that supervisors were pressuring officers to "rubber-stamp applications" and discouraging "proper investigation into red flags" and from denying applications.

"USCIS officers are pressured to approve visa applications for many individuals ICE agents have determined should be placed into deportation proceedings," National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council President Kenneth Palinkas said in a statement at the time.

The approach is consistent with the administration's policy toward processing applications from illegal immigrants covered by the president's executive actions granting quasi-legal status to people brought to the country illegally as children. Internal memos uncovered by Judicial Watch indicate that officials instructed workers at the National Benefits Center in 2012 to conduct "lean & lite" background checks.

Immigration officers also received orders not to reject applications of illegal immigrants who could not provide valid identification, according to Judicial Watch.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, told LifeZette that she has no reason to believe the agency has altered its practices.

"From everything I've seen, that's still the case — from everything I've heard from people who work there," she said.

USCIS statistics indicate that approval rates for naturalization petitions submitted to the agency increased from 91 percent in 2013 to 93 percent so far this year.

Vaughan said a properly functioning USCIS should be trying to ferret out fraudulent applications by randomly checking employment information and visiting home addresses. She said the government also does not make use of background check services used in the private sector.

"When you apply for a mortgage, these companies use very complex background checks … You can find out a lot about a person just by subscribing to these services," she said.

Last Modified: July 25, 2016, 8:09 am

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