Speaking Truth to Power: Giving Feedback to Federal Agencies13 Dec 2012
It’s a long-settled principle of American law that where there’s a wrong, there’s a remedy. When a government agency makes a mistake, or doesn’t play by its own rules, mechanisms are available to set things right, like challenging the agency’s action – or inaction – in court.
In the immigration context, individuals or employers might sue a federal agency if it failed to consider all the evidence before it, or otherwise made its decision incorrectly. For example, if a green card is improperly terminated, or adjudication of a visa application is seriously delayed beyond the time allowed by law, it may be appropriate to file a mandamus suit, asking a federal court to compel the agency to do what the law requires. Mandamus actions or other types of federal lawsuits also may be used to challenge new or existing agency policies that adversely affect a group of individuals, an employer, or even an entire industry.
Whether an agency decision harms an individual or a group, the affected parties are free to challenge it, without fear of reprisal. For government agencies, lawsuits are a daily fact of life, part of the normal feedback loop that keeps them responsive to the needs of the governed. These accountability and transparency mechanisms are built into the system, and only function correctly when people take the initiative to use them.
The same is true for notice-and-comment procedures that require advance public notice when a federal agency amends rules, so that interested parties can comment on the potential impact. Our firm is vigilant, regularly reviewing new rules proposed by the USCIS and other immigration authorities, so we can provide detailed feedback on how the changes would affect our clients, potential clients, and the immigrant community as a whole. We do this to improve the law for everyone concerned: U.S. citizens and those aspiring to become citizens, employers, temporary workers and their families, students and exchange visitors, tourists, and everyone in between.
Throughout these interactions, we maintain a cordial working relationship with the federal agencies that serve us and our clients. We bear in mind that, every day, U.S. immigration authorities make thousands of difficult decisions about who should be allowed to live and work here, or even come to visit. We recognize that the system has to balance many competing objectives, and that this is no easy task: a free society and a thriving modern economy demand a free flow of people and ideas, yet we must weigh the benefits of saying “yes” against equally compelling needs for national security and public safety. We commend our immigration agencies for their efforts to get the balance right. Much of the time agency decisions are spot on, but errors of greater and lesser magnitude do crop up with some frequency, and there are times when an agency’s decision is just plain wrong.
That’s when it’s important to remember the words of John Adams, a founding father of the United States, that we have “a government of laws and not of men.” Government power is always bounded by the rule of law, and the system is designed to protect individuals from its own mistakes, provided the complaints come through proper channels. Should you find yourself in need of such a remedy, the Murthy Law Firm stands ready to assist you.
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