Immigration Agency Removing Appeals Office Chief

From labor disputes cases to labor and employment publications, for your research, you’ll find solutions on Bloomberg Law®. Protect your clients by developing strategies based on Litigation...

By Laura D. Francis

The head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ appeals board is being transferred out of his position and moved to an acting director position at one of the agency’s regional service centers.

Ron Rosenberg, who has headed the USCIS’s Administrative Appeals Office since 2013, was told Feb. 21 that he was being detailed to the Potomac Service Center at the behest of USCIS Director Francis Cissna. Barbara Velarde, the current head of the service center, will be assuming Rosenberg’s role at the AAO.

Robert Cohen of Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur in Columbus, Ohio, said immigration attorneys are “disappointed” in the decision. “We have a great deal of respect for Ron’s work,” Cohen, chairman of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s USCIS Benefits Liaison Committee, told Bloomberg Law Feb. 23. “He brought an air of professionalism and intellectual integrity to the AAO.”

A representative for the USCIS wasn’t immediately available for comment.

The decision to move Rosenberg follows closely on the heels of two AAO decisions that appeared to run counter to recent USCIS decision making.

Last summer, USCIS adjudicators started questioning employers’ petitions for H-1B “specialty occupation” visas—which generally go to high-skilled workers—if the worker is being offered an entry-level salary. The USCIS also has indicated it has plans to redefine the term “specialty occupation” to “increase focus on obtaining the best and the brightest foreign nationals.”

Some of that questioning led to denials of the petitions, which were then appealed to the AAO.

“There is no inherent inconsistency between an entry-level position and a specialty occupation,” the AAO said in a Jan. 25 nonprecedential decision. “Most professionals start their careers in what are deemed entry-level positions. That doesn’t preclude us from identifying a specialty occupation,” the office said. “But wage is only one factor and does not by itself define or change the character of the occupation,” it said.

Rosenberg’s tenure at the AAO was a “real success story,” Greg Siskind of Siskind Susser in Memphis, Tenn., said in a Feb. 22 Twitter post. “AAO has been vocal in questioning the wisdom of some of the most overreaching nonsense coming out of USCIS and now the anti-immigrants that have taken over the agency appear to be exacting their revenge,” said Siskind, who serves on AILA’s board of directors.

Request Labor & Employment on Bloomberg Law