In my last post, Not Worth the Wait, I complained about my research experience with USCIS, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Sometimes I complain for effect – that is, to get a response. This time I was just publicly venting for no reason other than to post about my mysterious letter and lack of photographs. So I was surprised when I received an email from USCIS’ Chief of the Historical Research Branch. Apparently word gets around (I didn’t realize the Department of Homeland Security read my blog)!
I was very happy that they took the time to contact me, so I’d like to present what they had to say as a follow-up to my previous rant post. The first error was my own. I complained that I had the file number all along and didn’t need the index search. But, apparently if I had looked a little more closely at the information on the USCIS web site, I would have realized the index search was not necessary at all.
Next, USCIS apologized for what I referred to as their “amusing letter”. The letter used a “boiler plate” format, and two reviewing offices missed the grammatical errors.
But the biggest surprise of all? USCIS did have a copy of the letter I previously received in the DoJ FOIA request years ago, and they emailed me a much more legible copy of it. The email explained that this should have been included in the file they sent me. USCIS said:
The omission of the letter from the copy sent to you by Genealogy was our error. I am currently reviewing all record request procedures with the Genealogy supervisor to ensure the same error does not occur again.
When a naturalized citizen was convicted of a crime, the court would notify the cognizant INS office. The office would then investigate to see if the person had committed any crimes in the five-year period prior to their naturalization. In my great-grandfather’s case, his record was clean and this was his first offense. Now that I have a legible letter with a conviction date, I can investigate further. And maybe, like Sheri suggested in the comments of the last post, find my missing photo. Unfortunately it will be a mug shot, but a photo is a photo!
USCIS said, “We do our best to learn lessons from experiences such as yours to improve the USCIS Genealogy Program.” This is great news to genealogists everywhere!