Newton’s Third Law of Motion

Saturday, June 7th, 2008
By: Jonathan MontagJ.D.

To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Just as in Newton’s Third Law of Motion, so it seems to be with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. By way of background, a problem with immigration law administration is that there are huge numbers of people seeking great numbers of different benefits. There are infinite ways that a case becomes unusual, hard to easily categorize, and hard to adjudicate. Things get complicated fast. Cases sometimes get mis-categorized, misunderstood, and even misplaced. At least once every couple of months I learn of a file in a case where I represent the alien that has ended up at the National Records Center in Missouri – think where the Ark of the Covenant ends up at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark – before adjudication is complete.

In comparing Los Angeles USCIS and San Diego USCIS, for the past few years San Diego had a wonderful program for attorneys to inquire about a case. People specially trained accepted inquiries about cases where there were glitches in processing. Special training and experience was necessary because often a problem case was a problem because of unusual procedural complexities. These people could locate the files, review them and route them. They could spot procedural glitches and straighten them out. They could also make recommendations to the agency to fix problems. Over the years of the program, huge numbers of difficult cases were resolved to the joy of my clients and me and to the benefit of the agency. Los Angeles had no such program. To resolve a problem case, people had to rely on speaking with an information officer either at a USCIS office or through the legendary 800 number. At an office, the information officer would hunt around in the computer for a while and give a non-response, typically, that the case is still pending and we shouldcheck back in a few months. . These people did not and could not look through files, figure out a problem, and fix it. They did not have access to people throughout the office to help study a problem. They simply saw one person after another day after day and resolved little. As for the 800 number, a letter would come a month or two later saying everything was fine and to check back in a few months. A bad joke.

Suddenly, San Diego USCIS disbanded the attorney inquiry program for bureaucratic reasons only a bureaucrat would understand. Now we must rely on information officers and the 800 number. At about the same time, an equal and opposite reaction, Los Angeles USCIS, apparently not governed by the same bureaucratic restraints as San Diego, initiated an inquiry program. I have had the opportunity to experience the new Southern California world order. I had a naturalization case languishing in the Los Angeles District for a very long time. Numerous inquiries through the old channels got me no results. I also had all kinds of cases in San Diego stuck for no good reason. Inquiring through the inquiry system resolved all of these cases. Then the change occurred. In the last two months I have made inquiries about three problem San Diego cases. The officers and 800 number operators barely understood what the cases were about. So far, no resolutions. Using the new inquiry system in Los Angeles I checked on my languishing naturalization case. Soon after making the inquiry, an officer called me (Really! Called me!), apologized for the delay, and said the agency would work rapidly to finish up the case. For the past few years I was very glad to be practicing in San Diego and not have to deal with the Los Angeles behemoth. Suddenly, San Diego is the place of doom and gloom and Los Angeles is, well, the place of dreams.



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