USCIS Wants to Hear From You! Tell Them “Give us the Records”

US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) currently holds millions of records that should be accessible from the National Archives. The USCIS Genealogy Program, begun with the best of intentions, no longer functions, resulting in a difficult, time-consuming and very expensive process for genealogists, historians and everyday researchers to access immigration records of the late 19th and 20th century. 

Previously, we fought back on the USCIS proposal to hike fees to access the records. Now, USCIS wants to hear from the public to identify barriers between their services and our satisfaction. The window of opportunity to tell USCIS about all the problems with the Genealogy Program closes on 19 May 2021.

Effective comments require specific feedback. Comments must address one or more of the 17 questions posed by USCIS. Comments must include reference to the Code of Federal Regulations. This sounds difficult, but it isn’t. The team at Records, Not Revenue (of which I am a part) outlined three steps to help you provide effective comments on the USCIS Genealogy Program.

If you are ready to take action now, click here. Remember, the deadline is 19 May 2021

If you want to know a bit more, continue reading….

USCIS focuses on citizenship and immigration services. Before it was USCIS, it was the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and before that, the Bureau of Immigration. These agencies created heaps and heaps of records that provide important and interesting details on our ancestors’ lives.

The Genealogy Program at USCIS, created to help genealogists, historians and researchers access these old records, no longer effectively services the records nor the community. In fact, historical records and records management are not mentioned in the USCIS Mission Statement, nor is the Genealogy Program, historic records or records management listed in the USCIS Core Values.

Anyone who tries to order records from the USCIS Genealogy Program knows that the program currently exists as an afterthought, a burden, as illustrated in this info graphic

I experienced this process while working to obtain files on my grandfather. I submitted an index request, and then had to submit a FOIA request, after paying for the index search. Then, I received the documents, poorly scanned, redacted and delivered on obsolete technology. This is just one example of the challenges researchers face in obtaining the records.

The home for historic records is the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). USCIS has signed legal agreements to transfer many of their historic records and accompanying index to NARA, but has so far failed to uphold these agreements.

There is a solution: USCIS must transfer the historic records (and accompanying index) of our ancestors, as they are legally bound, and do it without further delay. The records that are not subject to transfer and are open for research must be serviced by trained professionals who understand the complicated history of the agency and the records under its care.

Take action now. Submit comments on the USCIS Genealogy Program. The deadline is 19 May 2021. Share this information with friends, researchers, librarians, historians, genealogy societies and your elected officials. Don’t let USCIS hold our history hostage.

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