- The Washington Times - Monday, July 9, 2018

The government’s chief legal immigration agency is elevating its internal watchdog, creating an Office of Investigations to police employee misconduct and protect U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from being penetrated by foreign agents.

The office will report to the agency’s deputy director, giving it more independence, USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna says in a memo to employees. A copy of the memo was seen by The Washington Times.

The agency will handle cases that don’t fall under the Homeland Security Department’s broader inspector general, Mr. Cissna said.

The Washington Post, reporting on plans for the office earlier this year, had said employees feared it was being created to punish officers who are too lenient in their decision-making on applications for citizenship or other legal immigration benefits. USCIS officials say that is not the case.

Mr. Cissna said the office was actually being created in response to a 2016 audit. That audit found a previous iteration, known as the Investigations Division, was plagued by management issues and favoritism.

Creating the new Office of Investigations as an independent branch that reports to the deputy director should help solve those issues, Mr. Cissna suggested.

Examples of past misconduct that would fall under the office’s investigative purview are bribery, mistreatment of applicants and on-the-job misdeeds such as looking at child pornography on government computers.

USCIS says other agencies have similar offices.

“USCIS is taking a long-needed step toward providing an independent and objective element that will ensure its investigations are impartial and conducted with the utmost fairness and lawfulness,” said Michael Bars, an agency spokesman.

He said in addition to waste, fraud and abuse, the Office of Investigations will also ensure “the agency is not vulnerable to exploitation by criminal or foreign elements through counterintelligence functions.”

“These responsibilities, while not new, will further strengthen our commitment to safeguarding the integrity of the nation’s immigration system and our rule of law,” Mr. Bars said.

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