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Ombudsman’s Fifth Annual Conference: Government and Stakeholders Working Together to Improve Immigration Services

Maria Odom
Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman

Earlier this month, the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman hosted its fifth annual conference at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.  Our conference is a unique open forum where government and stakeholders engage in robust dialogue about current immigration benefits issues.  We welcomed more than 300 attendees from across the country to share their experiences and gather insights from government representatives, while hundreds more joined the conference via livestream.

This year, we continued to focus on an important theme – Government and Stakeholders Working Together to Improve Immigration Services.  In our fifth year hosting this conference I believe that now, more than ever, it is critical to bring together immigration professionals from all sectors to discuss policy and quality of adjudications issues impacting USCIS’ customers.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson delivered keynote remarks, encouraging stakeholders to remain involved, adding: “For those of you … who want to build a better system and will build a better life here for immigrants, I say keep at it, don’t give up and don’t lose hope.”  Secretary Johnson was followed by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Rodriguez, who presented timely remarks and engaged with stakeholders during an extensive question and answer session.  He noted the vital role of the Ombudsman’s Office and announced that USCIS has adopted the Ombudsman’s recommendations to centralize adjudications of special immigration juvenile petitions into one USCIS service center.  The subsequent morning plenary offered a rare opportunity to hear directly from government decision-makers regarding planning and implementation of President Obama’s 2014 directive to take common sense steps to fix our broken immigration system through executive actions. 

Stakeholders received substantive information on immigration law and policy through the various panel topics including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), humanitarian parole, employment authorization documents, I-601A provisional Waivers, and employment-based and humanitarian hot topics. Throughout the day, participating government representatives were forthcoming with information and explanations, helping the public better understand government policy and decision-making all around.

The Ombudsman’s Office relies on its stakeholders to keep us informed of current or emerging immigration benefits issues.  During an “Ask the Experts” brown bag session, participants met members of the Ombudsman staff - including those directly handling requests for assistance and drafting policy recommendations on immigration benefits issues - and were able engage in constructive dialogue and have their questions answered.

Each year the Ombudsman’s conference emphasizes the need for good governance, which is grounded in a steadfast commitment to efficiency, transparency, and accountability.  As an office of last resort, we continue to ensure customers experience government at its best.   

If you were unable to join us in person, you can watch the conference’s morning session, Employment Hot Topics- Year in Review panel, and other selected panels here.

Are you interested in learning more about the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman? Visit our website and follow us on Facebook to get educated, and find additional opportunities to get involved.

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