The Biden administration is tossing out barriers implemented by the previous administration that intentionally made it harder for immigrants with disabilities to gain U.S. citizenship.
In a statement, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said it was shortening and simplifying a waiver that exempts disabled applicants from English and civics testing requirement requirements.
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USCIS said that changes were “were guided by public comments and feedback received” through a Federal Register notice. “This is a wonderful example of how USCIS is listening to the public it serves in order to better address their needs, while fulfilling our responsibilities as an agency,” said Director Ur Jaddou.
In the statement, the agency said that revisions “reduce burdens on applicants and the agency by eliminating questions and language that no longer have practical utility or were redundant. Most notable changes include elimination of questions about how each relevant disability affects specific functions of the applicant’s daily life, including the ability to work or go to school.”
Other changes include eliminating requirements to describe the severity of each disability. Some updates are guidance for telehealth examinations (this has been particularly crucial during the pandemic), and a change giving “applicants who did not properly complete their waiver the option to simply resubmit their form with updated information, rather than fill out entirely new paperwork,” NPR reported.
Relatedly, the previous administration had implemented a ridiculous policy that used blank spaces on asylum applications and other forms as an excuse to reject paperwork outright. Some rejections were for leaving the middle name field empty, even if the applicant had no middle name. It was “[b]ureaucracy as a weapon,” The Guardian reported in 2020. The Biden administration reversed this “blank space” policy last year.
The previous administration also intentionally politicized the naturalization test, which the Biden administration also changed. Overall, the previous administration sought to knee USCIS in order to help bring down the legal immigration system.
Catholic Legal Immigration Network’s Laura Burdick told NPR that the newly announced changes are “a big step in the right direction and a major improvement over the old policy. … It takes a much more humane approach.” Still, Burdick told NPR that an expansion of who can certify accommodations could do even more to aid disabled communities.
"Many of the immigrants that we serve receive their primary care from a nurse practitioner, since they are often more accessible than medical doctors, especially in low-income communities," she said in the report.
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