Saturday, March 22, 2008

USCIS Officer Allegedly Demanded Sex From Applicant

On March 21, 2008, the New York Times printed an article by Nina Bernstein on "An Agent, a Green Card, and a Demand for Sex."

The article alleges that Isaac R. Baichu worked as an adjudicator for USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) and during an interview of a married couple about their request for the wife to obtain a green card, he got her cellphone number and a few days later demanded sex from the wife in exchange for him approving their green card application.

According to the article, the woman used her cellphone's video function to record what he said when he met her and led her to his parked car in Queens, demanding oral sex during that meeting. Mr. Baichu was arrested last week. Of course, people are presumed innocent until proven guilty and these are just allegations at this point. They have a 16-minute recording, but we have to wait to see how the criminal justice system deals with the charges.

Nina Bernstein points out how difficult and dangerous it is to make a complaint, even if you have a tape recording of alleged improper conduct. It is so difficult to make a complaint that the victim did not call the police and could not figure out any way to file an anonymous complaint to USCIS so she and some friends instead turned to the New York Times.

The difficulty of making complaints brings attention to how USCIS does not have clear methods for filing and resolving complaints. In one situation, someone filed a complaint with allegations to USCIS in Newark, but the USCIS-Newark's treatment of the complaint demonstrated that their approach was one of cynicism for the allegations and made great efforts to point out all the reasons the complaint might not be well-founded without necessarily investigating what happened or updating the complaining person on how any investigation might have turned out. And not trying to talk to or interview the person filing the complaint.

In a climate where it is difficult to file complaints and it seems that USCIS does not treat complaints in a productive manner, it increases the risk that USCIS officers might be able to act improperly and not be caught. Nina Bernstein wrote in her article of criminal charges against immigration agents in Atlanta, Miami, and Santa Ana, California.

Michael Maxwell, the former director of USCIS internal investigations, testified in 2006 that more than 3,000 backlogged complaints of misconduct had gone uninvestigated because they lacked enough staff to check into them. Since 2006, USCIS has tripled its staff and says their backlog is down to under 200. In 2006, Mr. Maxwell testified that internal corruption in immigration was rampant and that employees faced constant temptations to commit crime.

Nina Bernstein wrote of examples such as:
  • Lloyd Miner of Hyattsville, MD, sentenced to a year in prison for inducing a woman to stay in the US illegally and harboring her in his house.
  • Eddie Romualdo Miranda from Santa Ana, CA, accused of demanding sexual favors from a woman seeking citizenship. Ultimately acquitted of sexual battery but pled guilty to misdemeanor battery and sentenced to probation.
  • Adjudicator Kelvin R. Owens from Atlanta convicted in 2005 of sexually assaulting a woman during her citizenship interview.
  • A Miami-ICE agent charged with taking a female detainee to his home and raping her.
When the question comes up about fraud and deceit in the immigration process, a big focus should be on the professionalism and honesty of USCIS and ICE employees. Nobody is suggesting that the average worker is breaking the law or is in any way corrupt. But the government, which charges huge fees to immigrants seeking their services, should work harder to find and punish corruption and fraudulent conduct by government employees. It should also make it much easier for people to file complaints and report improper conduct. Just as many police officers welcome police brutality investigations because they want bad police officers to be found and punished, it would not be surprising if the average USCIS employee would support stronger protections to find and punish USCIS employees who act improperly.


Post a Comment

<< Home