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Fronteras: Evolution Of Immigration Law Post 9/11 & Maternal Mortality Rate Worsens In Texas

Lynda Gonzalez, KUT
Maria Vera feeds her newborn son, Jair Alexander, with the help of Melissa Benson, a registered nurse and director of women's services at The Children's Hospital of San Antonio, in December.

Today on Fronteras, we look at:

  • The evolution of immigration law since 9/11.
  • An undocumented immigrant crossing the border for the first time is not committing a criminal violation (1:46).
  • Maternal mortality is on the decline across most of the U.S., except in Texas. What can the Lone Star State learn from California’s success? (11:45)

Credit Mark Wilson / Getty Images
Getty Images
L. Francis Cissna, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

USCIS Mission Statement Controversy

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service — the agency that handles green cards, citizenship applications, and DACA renewals – recently made headlines when its new director made a change to the agency’s mission statement.

The controversy centered around the decision to remove a reference to the U.S. as a “nation of immigrants.” There was also controversy over the decision to no longer refer to applicants as “customers.” In a memo to USCIS staff, director L. Francis Cissna said referring to applicants in this way implies the agency is serving them, not the American people.

Former USCIS director León Rodriguez, who led the agency from 2014 to 2017, responded with an opinion piece in the Washington Post, writing that the new mission statement and the Trump administration’s policies portray immigrants as a threat and burden to the nation.

Cissna issued a statement  that said the new mission statement focuses on “fairness, lawfulness and efficiency, protecting American workers, and safeguarding the homeland” and the core responsibilities of the agency, “which is to serve the interest of the American public by overseeing and ensuring the integrity of the immigration system and safeguarding the homeland.”

OLD MISSION STATEMENT: "USCIS secures America's promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system."
NEW MISSION STATEMENT: "U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values."

Credit Norma Martinez / Texas Public Radio
Frank Menchaca

Evolution Of Immigration Law

With each administration comes changes in policy and enforcement of immigration law. San Antonio attorney Frank Menchaca, a federal practitioner, said immigration law has evolved over the years, but the most significant changes came after the attacks of Sept. 11.


Dr. Katarina Lanner-Cusin, administrative medical director for women's services at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley, Calif., says quality-improvement toolkits provide step-by-step guides for everyone involved in a delivery.

Like Texas, California Once Had A Maternal Mortality Crisis

There is an alarming number of women dying while pregnant or shortly after giving birth in Texas. According to vital statistic records, 34.2 deaths per 100,000 live births were reported between 2011-2015. That’s an increase of 87 percent from 18.3 deaths per 100,000 live births from 2006-2010.  In 2017, Texas lawmakers directed a task force investigating maternal deaths to come up with ways to curb those deaths. In the first of a three-part series, KUT’s Ashley Lopez reports it might mean looking at how other states made motherhood safer.

Next week, Ashley looks at how the lessons from California could be applied in Texas, and how some health care providers are already trying.

Norma Martinez can be reached by email at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter @NormDog1

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1