November 16, 2006
Yesterday I was among a small group of local immigration lawyers that lunched with Prakash Khatri, the Department of Homeland Security’s Ombudsman for U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. The role of the Ombudsman is to identify and and offer solutions to problems within the immigration agency, which means that Mr. Khatri is a busy man. Mr. Khatri asked us to offer our perspectives on the most pressing problems we face as immigration lawyers. I expressed to Mr. Khatri that without a doubt the biggest problem that East Tennesseans face in dealing with USCIS is the fact that all Tennessee residents are required to travel all the way to Memphis to visit the immigration office. The hardship this places on East Tennesseans is tremendous: a thirty-minute interview in a marriage or naturalization case requires either a 14+ hour drive or a $500+ plane ticket and a rental car. The distance makes attorney representation at the interview cost-prohibitive in almost all cases. And in light of the fact that there are three USCIS offices closer by half (Charlotte, Atlanta, Louisville), it simply makes no sense for East Tennesseeans to be traveling to Memphis. Mr. Khatri indicated he would look into the issue. I hope this is one of the problems he is able to resolve.