USCIS - American Immigration Law Association (AILA) October Meeting
I. WHAT’S NEW
Roxana Bacon, Chief Counsel
Roxie brings exceptionally deep and strong immigration law expertise, management and leadership experience, and personal qualities to this important role within DHS and OGC. In her 35 years as an immigration law practitioner and policy advisor, she has, among other things, been a partner with the international firm of Bryan Cave, where she served on the firm’s Executive Committee and as resident manager of the Phoenix office, and later founded her own firm, Bacon & Dear, which she grew from 10 to 150 persons. She also taught immigration law as a visiting professor and adjunct professor at Arizona State University College of Law and served as a judge pro-tempore on the Arizona Court of Appeals. Among her many professional achievements, Roxie was the first woman to serve as the president of the Arizona Bar Association, the first woman to serve as general counsel to the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and a recipient of the American Bar Association’s Margaret Brent Award, its highest award given to women lawyers nationally.
Hubert H. Humphrey IV, Chief, Office of Communications
Hubert “Buck” Humphrey joins the Office of Communications as Chief, where he will lead and coordinate USCIS strategic messaging to stakeholders and oversee the community relations, media relations, new media and internal communications divisions. This is a schedule-C political appointee position.
Prior to his appointment, Mr. Humphrey was the Director of Federal and State Public Affairs and Public Relations at ASI Communications, Inc. in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mr. Humphrey worked with a variety of clients including USTA, AT&T, MySpace, the Dewey Square Group, the State of Minnesota, the City of Minneapolis and the City of St. Paul. His work included marketing, branding, public affairs, public relations messaging, business development and strategic communications for a diverse range of clients. Mr. Humphrey also worked on the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Presidential campaigns in a variety of capacities.
Mr. Humphrey holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from Hamline University, St. Paul, MN, and a bachelor’s degree in Law and Society from American University, Washington, DC.
Perry Rhew, Chief of the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO)
On, Mr. Perry Rhew entered on duty as the USCIS Chief of the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) on September 28, 2009. Immediately prior to his appointment Mr. Rhew served for four years as the first Chief Administrative Law Judge of and head of a new federal adjudicative agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals. As Chief ALJ he oversaw the agency’s hiring and training of over 570 employees, including ALJs, attorneys, paralegals, legal assistants, docket clerks and administrative staff members, and the opening of four adjudicative bodies around the country in Cleveland, Irvine, Miami, and Arlington. Mr. Rhew was instrumental in the creation of the new agency and in developing the policies and guidance that resulted in a reduction of average processing time for administrative appeals from an average of almost 300 days to under 90 days. He also served on the Secretary’s Pandemic Preparedness Council, spoke frequently at public forums, and oversaw the budget planning, training, and staffing models for the agency.
A native of Missouri, Mr. Rhew obtained a B.S. in Psychology from Southeast Missouri State University and his J.D. from the University of Missouri – Kansas City. He served for twelve years in elected office in Missouri, first as a prosecuting attorney and then as a state trial court judge. In that capacity he heard criminal cases, ranging from misdemeanor offenses to capital murder, and civil litigation from uncontested divorce cases to complex civil litigation. He resigned from public office to accept an appointment as a United States Administrative Law Judge for the Social Security Administration in Cleveland in 1997.
AILA wishes to recognize and commend USCIS for the outreach the Office of Transformation Coordination (OTC) has engaged in especially over the last few months and most notably the interactive Collaboration Session and Webinar held on September 25, 2009. This session was extremely beneficial and AILA is eager to continue to work with USCIS as a partner in the transformation process. Are there any updates on the transformation process that USCIS wishes to share with AILA at this time?
Response: Thank you for your participation in the previous stakeholder session. We are planning to have several more in the next few months to get input and feedback on initiatives and business process changes. We will post invitations for the upcoming meetings on the USCIS website.
II. AILA Introduction
AILA recognizes and appreciates the efforts of Director Alejandro Mayorkas and his staff to reach out and engage the public as USCIS develops and implements new programs and avenues to serve its core mission of administering our country’s immigration laws efficiently and with fairness, honesty, and integrity. AILA is committed to assisting USCIS in its mission and serving as a partner with USCIS to foster collaboration across all levels of government as President Obama directed in his Transparency and Open Government Memorandum issued this past January.
In particular, AILA values the opportunities for input and dialogue that Director Mayorkas has afforded our organization and other stakeholders in a variety of environments and venues over recent months, and we look forward to continued direct engagement with the Service. AILA especially wishes to acknowledge and commend USCIS for the establishment of the Office of Public Engagement as a noteworthy step in the creation of additional pathways of communication that will offer more opportunities for stakeholder input, and which supplement and complement the avenues of communication that AILA and other stakeholders have historically enjoyed.
In addition, AILA wishes to recognize and commend the efforts that have been made to improve the USCIS website and to enhance customer service activities, including establishing direct email contact with the Service Centers and Service Center Operations (SCOPS). We look forward to partnering with Director Mayorkas and his team in this time of change and transformation as we work toward our shared goal to continue to improve USCIS and the administration of U.S. immigration laws.
Over the course of several prior liaison meetings, AILA has requested guidance on a number of issues, and we wish to acknowledge USCIS action on several of the requests. AILA would like to thank USCIS for issuing guidance, some long-awaited, on adjudication of Physical Therapist/Occupational Therapist petitions, on the treatment of I-751 applications to waive conditions on residence for applicants in divorce proceedings, on the treatment of surviving spouses of U.S. citizens after the decision in Freeman v. Gonzales, 444 F.3d 1031 (9th Cir. 2006), and cases following Freeman, and on the treatment of I-140 Immigrant Visa Petitions involving successors-in-interest issues. We would also like to thank USCIS for re-implementing Premium Processing for R-1 and I-140 petitions.
AILA expresses its appreciation to Director Mayorkas for his commitment to the values of transparency, consistency, integrity, fairness, and balance, and the commitment to reaffirm those values throughout the agency. AILA believes that there already exist memoranda, some incorporated into the Adjudicator’s Field Manual, which enunciate principles of adjudication that embody these values, and which deserve reaffirmation. Among the memoranda are these:
Principles in these documents with respect to the examination and evaluation of evidence form the foundation for consistent, secure, fair and balanced adjudication of petitions and applications and efficient granting of immigration benefits to those entitled to receive them.
In our meeting in March 2009, we highlighted AILA’s concern about the apparent evolution of adjudication standards in a number of visa categories and lack of announced policy or guidance that was counterproductive to USCIS’ transparency goals and a strain on resources for both the agency and stakeholders. While AILA acknowledges improvement in some areas of adjudication standards and the issuance of long-awaited guidance in others, we remain concerned with a number of ongoing trends. The following agenda seeks to offer solutions and refocus our discussion on some of the most pressing issues affecting USCIS and its stakeholders.