Sunday, March 3, 2024

"This rulemaking is necessary to address outdated regulations..."

"Conflict Management, or How to Not Be UnPatriotic," by Jerry Truong

    I try to be fair. That means giving people I criticize a chance to respond. Or governments for that moment, which I suppose are people too, somewhere under the bureaucracy. For instance, in Friday's column, when I was painting questions from Department of Homeland Security as silly, I felt obligated to ask DHS for its perspective on the situation. 
      Not that I was expecting an answer. Every corner mom and pop bakery tends to be mum nowadays on the allure of fresh-baked pies. But the Department of Homeland Security surprised me by responding — after the column was done and online, true. But in a timely enough fashion that I thought I should honor the effort that somebody went to by sharing my question and their answer.

Good morning!
I'm the page two news columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times I spent six hours yesterday at a law firm watching Afghani immigrants fill out DHS's Form I-485, "Application to Register Permanent Residence," and was struck by the questions regarding security. Some seemed to address situations that were literally impossible, like: did you work for the Nazis from 1933 to 1945? I'm wondering if anyone there could comment on them — from my perspective, they seem time wasting and without any practical value — anyone with bad intentions would not answer them honestly. But perhaps I'm missing something. Is an update in the works? Thanks.

Neil Steinberg

     The following was sent by the Department of Homeland Security. The "On Background" at the start means I may quote the material provided so long as I don't identify the sender. It's rather oblique, but after a careful reading, I believe they're saying: 1) We ask these questions because we don't want terrorists entering the country and, if we catch them in a lie we can prosecute them, though 2) we can't change the questions for various groups, though we know they're out-of-date and are hoping to change them someday and 3) the silly questions notwithstanding, we're particularly excited about these Afghanis, and so waive the fees we usually sock immigrants with. But you can judge for yourself.

On Background:

     As a component supporting the Human Rights Violators & War Crime Center, USCIS takes seriously the collaborative effort to prevent the United States from becoming a safe haven for individuals who engage – or have engaged – in the commission of war crimes, genocide, torture and other forms of serious human rights violations from conflicts around the globe. If you knowingly and willfully falsify or conceal a material fact or submit a false document with your application for permanent residency, USCIS will deny your application and may deny any other immigration benefit. In addition, you will face severe penalties provided by law and may be subject to criminal prosecution.
USCIS is unable to modify immigration forms for specific communities or nationalities, but the agency has previously committed to simplifying several major forms, including Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Additionally, USCIS intends to propose a rulemaking effort to improve the regulations governing the adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence and related immigration benefits.
     This rulemaking is necessary to address outdated regulations to improve efficiency and the administration of the adjustment of status of immigrants to lawful permanent residence in the United States, improve the quality of inventory data that DHS provides to agencies, reduce the potential for visa retrogression, and promote the efficient use of immediately available immigrant visas. You can read more about that effort here: View Rule (
DHS/USCIS remains committed to supporting Afghan nationals paroled under Operation Allies Welcome. The agency has exempted filing fees and expedited processing of requests for employment authorization, adjustment of status, and other applications and petitions for certain Afghan nationals as part of the administration’s ongoing effort to help those who assisted the United States in Afghanistan resettle, reunite with family, and build their lives in their new communities in America.


  1. In 1980, my then husband, applying for a green card...they separated us, asked us personal questions about our domestic life, 'what color is his toothbrush' and some much more invasive queries. They did not seem to want to know if he was a Nazi. Simpler times.

  2. Sounds like they are trying their best with their hands tied.

  3. It seems your interpretation is correct. And, just from skimming the links, it seems to me also that USCIS has proposed a rule change effort to simplify forms in 2024; unclear whether its the specific parts you mention. The dept was severely set back in the pandemic (because it's fee-based and its budgets and staff were slashed) and they've been focused on clearing the backlog of applications. Making forms simpler probably was a low priority.
    I'd assume that since the creation of DHS, every bureaucratic change has been additive and never designed to make it easier to come to this country and work here. And with the current state of the House of Representatives, I can only imagine what certain Republican members will say -- and Fox News will amplify -- when they learn this administration is trying to make it easier for foreigners to navigate the process to get into the U.S. and work here. They will not be able to be rational about updating pathetically outdated forms.

  4. They cast a wide net. I'm sure they perceive it as efficient.

  5. I can assure Anonymous #1 that the intrusive marriage questions are still asked in an effort to detect 'green card marriages." The DHS response is not bad, though I would note that there's lots of wiggle room available in the term "certain Afghan refugees." I also recommend a recent New Yorker short story about the complex lives and memories of Afghan refugees.

  6. Why do people complain so much about government bureaucracy yet tolerate an astonishing amount of crap from corporations? I have had far more snafus and long holds with my health insurance, cable/internet and cellphone providers than with any government agency. I leased a new car yesterday and was there for over 3 hours doing a ridiculous amount of paperwork and being basically forced to set up another gawdam app which also required me to go through a password change on my online account. While we're at it, how about all these businesses in general pushing apps and putting everything on our phones. I'm kind of tired of it, and feel more and more vulnerable through my phone. Yet, government is the problem. Yeesh.
    Thank you for giving me a place to rant so as not to disturb my husband as he puts strawberries on his oatmeal crunch.


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