Speier Introduces Bill to Ensure that Sensitive Immigration Documents Reach Their Recipients Securely Via Mail

Date: March 8, 2016
Location: Washington, DC

Congresswoman Speier (D-CA) and Congressman Rob Woodall (R-GA) and 8 other co-sponsors introduced the bipartisan Strengthening the Department of Homeland Security Secure Mail Initiative Act (Secure Mail Initiative Act), which would ensure that sensitive documents such as green cards, travel documents, and employment authorization forms are received by their intended recipients. The act would update the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Secure Mail Initiative (USCIS SMI) so that recipients can choose signature-required delivery for those documents to more reliably guarantee receipt.

"When immigration documents are not properly delivered, it can be catastrophic to the person who is waiting to receive it--and it poses a threat to national security," said Speier. "People nationwide have not been receiving their documents in the mail, even when the USPS tracking system reports the item has been delivered. That is unacceptable. It can create a great financial burden for the intended recipient whose only recourse is to reapply for the document, and that same document could wind up in the hands of terrorists or human traffickers. We can easily fix this problem by allowing people to choose signature-required delivery, at no additional cost to taxpayers."

"It's not uncommon for me to get a call from a constituent concerned that they have not received requested documents from USCIS," said Woodall. "They are anxious and, in some cases, afraid of how it will affect them and their families. They're also frustrated by the lack of options to ensure secure delivery in the first place. I am happy to go to work and straighten these issues out for them; however, they deserve a mechanism that will eliminate this stress altogether, and that's exactly what this legislation does."

In 2011, USCIS completed implementation of the Secure Mail Initiative, which requires permanent resident cards, travel documents, and employment authorization documents to be sent using U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation that monitors delivery via a tracking number. Despite this change, there are reports nationwide that these documents do not always reach their intended recipients, even though the Delivery Confirmation system indicates the items have been delivered. The realities of the current system can impose great costs on recipients and the federal government: For example, people waiting for a green card have no recourse except to re-apply while paying an additional fee of $450. Meanwhile, USCIS's immigration processing system is undermined and it is possible for bad actors to steal or misuse the documents in ways that threaten national security. The Secure Mail Initiative Act would close that loophole by allowing recipients to elect signature-required delivery at no extra cost to taxpayers.