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Bloggings on Dysfunctional Government

by Angelo Paparelli

Editor's note: Here are the latest entries from Angelo Paparelli's blog.

September 12, 2008

USCIS's Word Is NOT Its Bond

There's little wonder why confidence in government is at a low point.  In a recent AAO decision, USCIS went out of its way to say that the public and the immigration bar should not be lulled into deceiving themselves that the agency will stand behind its public pronouncements:

[T]he legacy INS comments in the supplemental information to the . . . regulation are not legally binding on USCIS. . . .

[E]ven where an agency memorandum or General Counsel opinion is publicized and discussed in a widely circulated immigration periodical, the document will not be considered as a rulemaking that a petitioner may rely on.

So the lesson here is that every time a lawyer or a stakeholder is tempted to rely on a USCIS web posting, press release, memo, press conference, answer in a liaison meeting or other utterance (except for published final rules and decisions designated as precedent), we should remember that the USCIS's word is not its bond.  Don't risk your law license or your client's immigration case on the undeserved expectation that the government will keep its word.

There oughta be a law that administrative agencies are bound by an individual's reasonable reliance on a clearly worded statement issued by that agency, even if some bureaucrats might later find it convenient to repudiate its original pronouncement.