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13 April 2011

Did You Know?: The INS No Longer Exists

Each month, USCIS publishes a report on traffic to our website, which includes statistics on popular search terms people use to find our site. And every month, tens of thousands of visitors search “INS” to find us. In January 2011, our report registered nearly 30,000 searches for the term “INS.”

This leaves us wondering. After all, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has not existed since March 1, 2003. On that date, most INS functions were transferred from the Department of Justice to three new components within the newly formed Department of Homeland Security. USCIS is one of those three components. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are the other two.

So if INS was abolished eight years ago, why do so many people think it still exists? Why are so many people still searching for it online? Why has the word not gotten out to everyone? Do movie and television portrayals of “INS agents” keep the legend going?

Let us know your thoughts. Why do you think so many people believe the INS still exists?  

07 April 2011

USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas Promotes Immigrant Integration in California

(As published in The Blog at Homeland Security)

Yesterday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas spoke at a University of Southern California conference in Los Angeles entitled "Which Way America? Reframing, Regrouping, and Realigning for Immigrant Integration." Stressing the fundamental values of our nation, Mayorkas emphasized the important contributions immigrants have made to this country.

Mayorkas reminded us of courageous individuals like Gerda Weissmann Klein –a humanitarian, author, human rights activist, Holocaust survivor, and a proud naturalized citizen. Mrs. Weissmann-Klein was a recipient of the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, and was also honored by USCIS as an Outstanding American by Choice – an honor bestowed upon naturalized U.S. citizens who have demonstrated exemplary commitment to this country.

As the federal agency that administers naturalization and ensures the integrity and efficiency of the citizenship process, USCIS is proud to have provided tens of thousands of people nationwide with information on eligibility, testing, and citizenship rights and responsibilities. Last year, USCIS’s Citizenship and Integration Grant Program provided nearly $8.1 million to 78 community organizations in 27 states to support citizenship education programs and naturalization application services for lawful permanent residents.

And earlier this year, Mayorkas and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa partnered to debut a first-of-its-kind Immigrant Integration pilot program aimed at strengthening citizenship efforts in L.A., a city that is home to an estimated 2.3 million lawful permanent residents eligible for citizenship. Through proactive citizenship awareness, education, and outreach activities, Mayorkas hopes to replicate this first-of-its-kind collaborative effort in other cities across the country.

"As a nation grounded in the fundamental value that all people are created equal, our unifying promise of citizenship has allowed people of all backgrounds, whether native or foreign-born, to have an equal stake in the future of this nation, "said Mayorkas. "Citizenship solidifies the inclusive vision of what America stands for: a nation united by the common ideals of freedom, equality, and democracy."


05 April 2011

Another Rewarding Day at the Office

(By Anita Rios Moore, Public Affairs Officer, USCIS Northeast Region)

My work at USCIS allows me to attend countless naturalization ceremonies and witness hundreds of people becoming new Americans. After a while, you might think that these events would start to feel routine. But they never have - I still get caught up emotionally each time I go.

The ceremony I attended recently at Burlington High School in Vermont was no different. While waiting in the hallway to greet attending members of the media, I listened as students flooded into the auditorium. I wondered: Would they take what was happening to heart? Would they fully grasp the life-changing impact of this event for the 40 new citizens on the stage?

The answer to both questions was a resounding “Yes!” 

When the ceremony began, the auditorium was overflowing with around 1,000 students and guests, each alive with anticipation. The stage had been transformed into a temporary court room, with Chief U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss presiding.

Among the guest speakers was one of Burlington High School’s own: Lueth Lueth. A recently naturalized American citizen from southern Sudan, Lueth faced his classmates and, with Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin only a few feet away, shared his long journey to citizenship. He described a childhood full of responsibilities. By age 12, he had learned to do for himself, and, after many interviews and much paperwork, Lueth was able to seize the opportunity to come to Vermont with his cousin.

“Vermont is very cold. School was hard and challenging to adapt to while learning English. Yet, six years later, I am a snowboarder!” Lueth proudly exclaimed as the room erupted with applause. He described the citizenship process: Interviews, fingerprinting and having to take a test. “A very hard test,” he said. “But last month my dream came true. I have the feeling of freedom. I belong to two parts of the world.” He finished his story by welcoming the soon-to-be Americans, and was given a standing ovation by all in attendance.
Gov. Shumlin then addressed the candidates, welcoming them on behalf of Vermont and telling them how excited he was  about being a part of the ceremony.

After taking the Oath of Allegiance, the 40 new citizens were enthusiastically and warmly welcomed by Burlington High School’s student body—at which point Gov. Shumlin turned to Chief Justice Reiss and said, “This has to be the most exciting experience of your job.” It was a statement I could truly take to heart and agree with. Citizenship ceremonies are indeed exciting and extremely gratifying for those of us who work at USCIS and have the honor to take part in, or even preside over, them.

And by event’s end, the students were captivated—and I knew the ceremony would have a lasting impact on them as well.