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Ring the alarm: The United States, which previously encouraged countries to “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” is no longer a “nation of immigrants.”
At least, that is according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency which announced to staff on Thursday that it will remove the phrase from its mission statement.
According to the Intercept, USCIS director L. Francis Cissna announced the mission change in an email to staff members. The former mission that included the phrase “nation of immigrants” stated:
USCIS secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system.
The new mission statement, a more sanitized version, places less emphasis on immigrants as “customers” and the services they may be eligible for, and more emphasis on the homeland security and the protection of pre-existing citizens:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.
Cissna wrote in the email that USCIS shouldn’t be referred to as a “business” because of the valuable work it does and that people seeking citizenship or visas shouldn’t be referred to as “customers,” because it implies they should be satisfied with the outcome of their immigration process.
“I believe this simple, straightforward statement clearly defines the agency’s role in our country’s lawful immigration system and the commitment we have to the American people,” Cissna wrote.
When asked if the USCIS changed its view of the U.S. being a nation of immigrants, Jonathan Withington, USCIS Chief of Media Relations, told the Intercept that the statement “speaks for itself.”
“The statement speaks for itself and clearly defines the agency’s role in our country’s lawful immigration system and commitment we have to the American people,” Withington wrote.
The USCIS’s mission change is just the latest shift in rhetoric in an attempt to redefine the U.S.’s immigration policies under the Trump administration. The USCIS previously changed the name of a grant program that used the word “integration” to using the word “assimilation,” shifting the responsibility of immigrants to become one with other U.S. citizens instead of just joining the country as a former national of another.
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.