An Ombudsman is a wonderful thing and it’s a too-little used resource in the immigration world. The USCIS Office of the Ombudsman is responsible for working with USCIS to resolve problems that applicants have with their cases.
While this office is always the last resort, sometimes no amount of “lawyering” or liaison work can get USCIS to move forward on a case. The Ombudsman’s Office can often spur USCIS into action when no one else can.
The Ombudsman’s Office’s work goes beyond solving individual problems, though. They also look at ongoing policy issues and make suggestions to USCIS on how they can better achieve their mission and provide quality customer service. For example, with the U visa backlog, the Ombudsman’s Office is looking at ways to alleviate the stress and burden of family separation when the derivative children are outside of the United States.
Last week, the Ombudsman’s Office held their Fourth Annual Conference at the National Archives in Washington DC. USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez spoke about current challenges such as long processing times and overly burdensome Requests for Evidence (RFEs). He also reiterated that the agency is prepared to move forward with whatever programs that the President may implement with executive action on immigration reform. (I remain cautiously optimistic that it’s a matter of “when” and not “if” we get some type of reform.
The conference also had several sessions where government officials and private-practice attorneys discussed a variety of hot topics. I was honored to be invited to speak about the visa bulletin and how it impacts children and derivative beneficiaries.
USCIS Office of the Ombudsman 4th Annual Conference. Panel discussion.
From left to right: Lori Melton with the USCIS Immigrant Investor Program; Tracie L. Klinke, Esq.; Paull Hejinian, Esq.; Rishiram Lekhram with USCIS Service Center Operations; Charlie Oppenheim from the Department of State, and Gary Merson from the USCIS Ombudsman’s Office.
It was a thrill to be a co-panelist with Charlie Oppenheim, the individual at the Department of State who sets the visa bulletin priority dates each month.
While the majority of the panelists were government officials and focused on theory, I was able to talk about the visa bulletin in terms of how it impacts families in the real world.