How do I file a complaint against the USCIS for their mistake?
April 9, 2007 1:20 PM   Subscribe

The INS made a mistake and took away my friend's green card. What can she do?

On a recent trip, my friend had her (and her family's) green cards were taken away at the airport. They were told that the green cards were no long valid and that they need to get new ones. They were admitted into the country.

They went ahead and got new green cards and were sent THE SAME EXACT ONES BACK! There is absolutely no difference in the old cards and the new ones. Quite frankly, no one has any idea why the original ones were invalid.

Needless to say, immigration made a mistake when they made my friend spend a thousand dollars to get their original green cards card back. How does she go about filing a grievance?

I'm a soon-to-be attorney but don't know how to go about this. You can always sue the government but there has to be a less painful way of filing a grievance. I've checked the USCIS website and of course there's no form you can fill to complain.

Please help me hive mind!!
posted by pikaboy202 to Law & Government (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Contact the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman.
posted by dcjd at 1:26 PM on April 9, 2007


Most likely, she has to just let it go.

Suing the government is tricky business, and unless there is a specific statute giving you permission to sue the government, you're not allowed to. Start looking at the Federal Tort Claims Act and see if this might be covered in there. My guess is that it won't be. Then look at the immigration statutes, and see if there's a right to sue there. My guess is, it won't be there either.

My advice? Tell her to work on becoming a citizen so that she's here by right, rather than permission. The government is much more friendly to people who can vote. Sad, but true.

(IAAL, but IANYL)
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 1:28 PM on April 9, 2007


I would second looking into citizenship; the rights of resident aliens are tenuous at best. You can be denied services (such as a driver's license), kicked out of the country for pretty much anything, or worse, locked up indefinitely, all on the whim of the authorities you have to deal with. I became a citizen after one too many times of getting hassled by the DMV and being interrogated in customs.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:58 PM on April 9, 2007


Do you mean that the "new" cards are the same physical objects as the old ones, complete with little scratches and whatnot?

If they're not, it seems possible that USCIS might have just generated new cards with old biometrics and photos. What is the expiration date on the new cards?

When did they get their original green cards?

And unless her home nation would strip her citizenship if she naturalized, and she cares, she should go ahead and take US citizenship. Doing so means never having to deal with USCIS again, ever.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:58 PM on April 9, 2007


They might appear the same but might not actually be. They might have RFID in them or something else not visible. It isn't clear if you mean the exact same cards or just identical looking cards.
posted by chairface at 2:14 PM on April 9, 2007


Just a note for those of you saying to get citizenship - depending how you got the green card (marriage, work) you cannot apply for citizenship for several years after receiving it. So depending when she initially got her green card she may not be eligible for some time. Its 5 years wait if you get your green card through work, for example.
posted by Joh at 5:01 PM on April 9, 2007


(Joh is right - most green card holders have a waiting period before they become eligible to apply for citizenship.)

The cards probably aren't actually identical. Even if they are, I'd be surprised if suing would cost less than a thousand dollars.

I have to admit I am all agog at any green card holder so confident they'd want to sue the USCIS. Frankly, they scare the crap out of me.
posted by joannemerriam at 6:08 PM on April 9, 2007


Permanent resident cards expire after 10 years. Once a PR, always a PR (assuming you do nothing illegal to give the powers that be reason to revoke it), but you're supposed to apply for a new card when it expires. You sure that's not what was happening here?
posted by normy at 7:00 PM on April 9, 2007


Just a data point: my Green Card (circa 1987) had no printed expiration date.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:33 PM on April 9, 2007


Looks like the rules changed at some point. My 2002 card expires 2012.
posted by normy at 7:40 PM on April 9, 2007


I was going to post this earlier then thought it to me-centric but really there are people who simply DON'T want to become citizens, so that's not necessarily useful advice. (I mean, swearing allegiance to the flag, not for me thanks.)
posted by anadem at 10:24 PM on April 9, 2007


Blazecock: there was no printed expiration back, because the resident visa itself does not expire, but the card itself has only a ten year duration, so if you're still a "resident alien" then you should think about renewing the card (it's a legal requirement to have a current card with you.)
posted by anadem at 10:44 PM on April 9, 2007


Just a note for those of you saying to get citizenship - depending how you got the green card (marriage, work) you cannot apply for citizenship for several years after receiving it.

If her green card has expired, she's been here long enough to take citizenship. The only people this isn't true for are conditional permanent residents who aquire PR status through a new marriage.

there are people who simply DON'T want to become citizens, so that's not necessarily useful advice. (I mean, swearing allegiance to the flag, not for me thanks.)

If your home country won't revoke your citizenship, there are very few concrete reasons not to take US (or UK or Canadian or...) citizenship. About the only one that matters: IRS will expect you to keep filing tax returns even if you move back home. You won't owe anything unless you make pots of money, though.

If you want to give up actual, real, no-shit concrete benefits because swearing allegiance makes you feel that dirty, that's your funeral, but it seems a silly way to go through life, especially when nobody particularly cares whether you really mean every word of the vows deep down in your heart.

the card itself has only a ten year duration

That's only been true since 1989.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:15 PM on April 9, 2007


ROU_Xenophobe, I don't think her green card was expired, that was the point of the question, no? If the cards had actually expired then of course she should get new ones, and is also eligible to apply for citizenship.
posted by Joh at 3:24 PM on April 10, 2007


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