Published May 21, 2013
Illegal immigrants seeking a reprieve under an election-year program implemented by the Obama administration are being approved at a rate of over 99 percent -- a situation that has the immigration officer union raising concerns about fraud and security risks.
The program in question is called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows some illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to seek tentative legal status. It was the administration's answer to the "Dream Act," a bill Congress drafted but did not approve.
The union representing thousands of employees in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes these applications, complained this week that workers were being compelled to "rubber stamp" all kinds of applications.
But it drew particular attention to the deferred-action program, noting that the approval rate is now north of 99 percent.
Union President Kenneth Palinkas said agency leaders have "intentionally" set up a process that "bypasses" traditional screening methods - like in-person interviews with the applicants.
"These practices... guarantee that applications will be rubber-stamped for approval, a practice that virtually guarantees widespread fraud and places public safety at risk," Palinkas said in a statement.
Numbers provided by USCIS show that, of the applications that have received a final judgment, 99.2 percent were approved. Nearly 292,000 have been approved as of April.
A total of 515,922 have been received by USCIS -- a small percentage of those were rejected and returned before they made their way to the approval phase, because of missing paperwork or other technicalities.
The agency has thus far processed roughly 60 percent of the applications it has received.
The Department of Homeland Security anticipates, though, that the approval rate will fall as officers continue to review the rest of the applications and gather evidence. Part of the process includes waiting for applicants to supply additional evidence, before determining whether to issue a denial.
The department insists every application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
"This administration has made historic improvements to the integrity of the immigration system through common sense reforms that focus resources on national security and the identification and removal of criminal aliens and other public safety threats," DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard said in a statement. "USCIS has consistently reinforced a culture of quality and integrity to ensure that every case is decided based on the law and the facts of each particular case."
He added: "Reverting back to a system that treats violent criminals the same as children brought to this country through no fault of their own would only undermine the integrity of the immigration system, force law enforcement agencies to divert limited resources from focusing on those who pose real threats to their communities, and weaken public safety and security."
The USCIS union, though, alleged Monday that the culture of the agency had changed to encourage approval of applications and discourage "proper investigation into red flags." They aired their complaints as part of a statement announcing their opposition to a major Senate immigration bill.
Palinkas told Fox News Latino that, in general, the agency is not denying applications "because we don't have time."
"We're just skimming files, and this is somebody's life, and you can't go through the file. There may be something in there you need to see," he said. "We're a granting machine."
The program is open to individuals under the age of 31 as of June 2012 who came to the U.S. before they were 16. It bars those with a felony conviction, or "significant misdemeanor" conviction, as well as those with three or more "other misdemeanors."
The rules say only applicants who do not pose a "threat to national security or public safety" will be considered.