The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the most important administrative agency in immigration law, encompassing the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The DHS published a guide on how to file a complaint with the DHS in April of 2015. You may find the PDF of the guide here for your convenience. The guide explains the various avenues available for the public to make complaints involving:
- DHS employees or programs;
- Alleged violations of civil rights and civil liberties;
- Immigration filings;
- Travel redress;
- Other types of grievances.
Any person who believes he or she has cause to file a complaint with the DHS should review the guide carefully. For this post, I will provide a summary of where the guide discusses complaint procedures that should be of interest for those dealing with the DHS in the immigration context. I will include the pages in the guide on which information for filing the specific complaint may be found.
Discrimination and Other Violations of Civil Rights and Liberties
Complaints regarding discrimination and other violations of civil rights and civil liberties should be directed to the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL). The DHS website has an online complaint form available. Complaints may also be sent in writing, by mail, email, or fax.
Complaints of this type may also be directed to the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG).
Complaints of this type may include, but are not limited to:
- Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability
- Denial of meaningful access to DHS services due to limited English proficiency
- Violation of rights while in immigration custody
- Discrimination or inappropriate questioning related to entry
- Violation of due process rights
- Violation of immigration confidentiality agreements (such as VAWA Act, T Visa, or U Visa confidentiality agreements)
- Other civil rights, civil liberties, or human rights abuses related to a DHS program
This information is found on pages 2-3 of the guide.
Criminal and Non-criminal Misconduct, including Serious and/or Repeated Violations of DHS Rules, Policies, or Regulations
Complaints of this type should be directed to the DHS OIG. The DHS website has an online form for filing complaints with the OIG. These complaints may be filed using an online form on the DHS website. If the complaint is specifically related to the ICE, the complaint may be filed with the Joint Intake Center (JIC). If the complaint is specifically related to the USCIS, it may be filed with the USCIS Office of Security and Integrity (OSI).
Complaints of this type may include criminal or non-criminal misconduct against DHS employees and law enforcement officers. Furthermore, the DHS OIG also reviews DHS programs and expenditures.
This information is found on pages 3-4 of the guide.
General complaints of this type should be directed to the DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP). Complaints of this type may include:
- Difficulties experienced during travel screening;
- Denied or delayed entry into or departure from the U.S. at a port of entry or border crossing; or
- Situations where one believes that he or she is unfairly or incorrectly delayed, denied border, or identified for additional screening.
Complaints about clearing customs and immigration should be directed to the CBP INFO Center.
Complaints of this type may include:
- Complaints about the inspection process;
- Facilities; or
- Penalties assessed.
This information is found on pages 4-5 of the guide.
Concerns with Longstanding or Complex USCIS Immigration Filings or Applications
The guide recommends first trying the available USCIS customer service options. These include:
- Calling the USCIS National Customer Service Center;
- Checking “Case Status” on the USCIS Website; or
- Making an InfoPass appointment with USCIS.
Those who have exhausted the customer service options with regard to immigration filings to no avail should contact the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (CIS Ombudsman) and complete the online case assistance form, or, if outside the United States, the Form DHS-7001, Case Assistance Worksheet found on the DHS website.1
This information is found on pages 5-6 of the guide.
Concerns Regarding E-Verify and the Save Program
The guide provides the following chart for requesting assistance regarding E-Verify, the Form I-9, and employment eligibility with the USCIS Verification Programs Contact Center:
The guide provides the following chart for complaints regarding immigration-related employment discrimination with the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Office of Special Counsel:
TTY: 800-362-2735 (TTY)
TTY: 800-237-2515 (TTY)
For inquiries regarding the SAVE program, the guide recommends calling the USCIS Verification Programs Contact Center by phone or contacting it by email.
This information is found on page 6 of the guide.
Concerns about ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO)
Persons with concerns about ICE civil enforcement priorities, immigration detention, or ICE actions involving U.S. citizens should contact their local ERO Community and Field Liaison or the ERO Detention Reporting and Information Line. If going through a Field Liaison does not resolve the problem, the person may contact the Detention Reporting and Information Line (DRIL). Complaints may also be submitted using the optional ERO Contact Form on the ICE website.
This information is found on page 7 of the guide.
Pages 8-10 of the guide contain information for making general complaints about a specific DHS agency. Included is information for USCIS, ICE, and CBP.
Privacy Complaints and Allegations of Privacy Violations
Pages 10-12 of the guide contain information about making a complaint about a privacy violation to a DHS agency. In the case that a person is unsure of which office a privacy complaint should be directed, he or she may direct the complaint to the DHS OIG or DHS Privacy Office for consideration and possible referral of the complaint.
The guide is a handy resource for helping people file a complaint with the DHS. However, those with serious complaints or complicated immigration matters should consult with an experienced immigration attorney for guidance.