The Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman was created by the US Congress in the Homeland Security Act of 2002. An independent and impartial office within the Department of Homeland Security, the office assists individuals and employers who need to resolve a problem with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services and to make recommendations to fix systemic problems and improve the quality of services provided by USCIS. The Ombudsman’s Office is not, however, a part of USCIS.
Each year, the Ombudsman’s Office submits a report to Congress, providing a summary of the most pervasive and serious problems encountered by individuals and employers applying for immigration benefits with USCIS. The report also reviews past recommendations to improve USCIS programs and services.
Appointed in 2012 by then DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, Maria M. Odom leads the office as the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman. Ombudsman Odom is also Chair of the DHS Blue Campaign, which works with law enforcement, government and non-governmental partners to educate and combat against human trafficking.
Prior to her appointment, Ombudsman Odom practiced immigration law for several years and served as Executive Director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. Early in her career, Ombudsman Odom also served as Assistant District Counsel for the former Immigration and Naturalization Service and as a judicial law clerk at the Executive Office for Immigration Review.
On July 16, 2015, the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) hosted a nationwide teleconference and stakeholder roundtable with Ombudsman Odom and Chief of Policy Elissa McGovern to discuss areas of focus in the 2015 Annual Report, including: quality and consistency in adjudications, delays in processing of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewal applications, handling of Special Immigrant Juvenile petitions, provisional waivers, asylum backlogs, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, and the H-2 Temporary Worker Programs. Ombudsman Odom also shared information about the work of the Department’s Blue Campaign.
In this episode of CMSOnAir, we share their presentation and their conversation with CMS Executive Director Donald Kerwin.
To download the 2015 Annual Report, visit http://www.dhs.gov/annual-report-congress.