New USCIS director sets agenda to digitize records, reduce delays

31 Jul 14

UNITED STATES

Digital immigration records and greater efficiency are key priorities set out by the new USCIS director Leon Rodriguez in his first remarks to Congress.

“One of my top challenges and top priorities is tackling our agency’s information systems,” Rodriguez said to the House Judiciary Committee on July 29, testifying on a range of immigration topics.

He noted that the agency still operates on paper systems or legacy electronic systems that prevent optimal efficiency.

“We could be operating even better if we had modern information systems,” said Rodriguez, who was sworn in on July 9.

Short-term goals include the addition of new technology that would use Department of Homeland Security cloud services by the end of this year. Rodriguez said that web-based features will be rolled out beginning in September and the agency will continue to introduce new user functions every four to six months.

The long-range digital overhaul of records, known as the Transformation Program, is currently in progress and was originally planned to be unveiled in 2013. However, it is now expected to be completed in fiscal year 2018 or 2019.

“For me, making sure that, at a minimum before I conclude my tenure, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel for those challenges, will be a top priority,” Rodiguez said.

BAL Analysis: The move to digital files is intended to streamline processing, reduce delays, and increase capacity. The proposed introduction of new user functions as early as this year is a promising sign; however, the estimated six-year delay in the agency’s completion of its digital Transformation Program means these benefits may not be seen for some time.

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