We treat the US Government and agencies like they’re working against us not for us. But the truth is that most of them are doing their jobs like how the rest of us do our 9–5.
One morning, I was sitting in a Courthouse waiting to submit an application for a permit. Nearby a group of people were clinching child custody agreements in their fists hoping to modify terms that morning. Just like me, these folks took time from their busy work schedules to sit there patiently to address something important.
Minutes grew into hours and frustrated faces poked up every now and then to see what was going on. After my third hour, one man yelled out “C’mon, I’ve got to go to work after this” to a seemingly unaffected reception staff who kept typing away at their desks.
Soon enough, I got what I came for and left, yet I still saw the same people waiting and shaking their heads in disbelief. Obviously they were angry, but to me, it was clear that they misdirected it at the staff; after all, the family court, their workers, or staff aren’t hired to make your life miserable. They’re doing their job as best as they can.
And this applies to any agency in general — the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Social Security Administration (SSA), Immigration (USCIS), and other services. The problem is we’re angry at them whereas we should be angry at the policies that limit them.
Who pulls the puppet strings?
Here’s a recent example from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The Trump Administration is finding new and creative ways to limit legal immigration to the US. Since they can’t really change immigration laws (only Congress has Plenary power), they’re resorting to the next best thing: making it difficult to apply.
In a report by Immigration Impact, allegedly the Administration pressured the USCIS to vet every single application top to bottom like never before. As a result, in early 2020, the USCIS reportedly began to slow down and reject immigration petitions in record numbers by finding mistakes that they would’ve otherwise forgiven in the past.
You could throw your hands up and blame the USCIS, “See, look at these guys… I did what they asked and they still rejected me! They’re nitpicking to make things difficult.”
But are they to blame? The reality is that Joe behind his desk who rejected your immigration petition was doing what his superiors instructed him to do. His superiors, in turn, did what the policymakers made them do.
“Well, okay,” you can argue “but even before Trump, the government was still a mess. It took me 14 months to get my wife’s visa to come to the US”.
But let’s consider the fact how the USCIS’s hands are tied regarding how they can process paperwork. You see, there are dozens of duties they perform and can’t possibly get to everyone immediately. In addition, Congress limits their budget, power, and statute — literally forcing agencies to slow down even if they don’t want to. For example, the federal government sets a numerical limit on who or when someone can enter the US or get privileges like a Green Card or work authorization. And there’s not much the USCIS can do about it.
Look, I’m not saying that all government agencies are innocent hostages to policymakers. Yes, the USCIS, DMV, SSA and others have their flaws, but they’re not intentionally making things difficult. Who are the real opponents? Policies, lawmakers, policymakers, and those in power to make actual changes. They set rules.
And who votes those lawmakers into office? We do.
What choice do you have?
My point here is to both show you that you’re probably fighting the wrong battle and to inspire you to get up and vote because change is in YOUR hands. And it doesn’t take a miracle to do it, it takes action.
For example, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) are notorious for overcrowding and slow service. In a survey by the San Diego Union Tribune, they found out that over 70% of people despised the waiting time above all else.
It got to such a point that public pressure and political intervention spurred lawmakers to improve funding and service. As a result, the DMV extended their working hours and allowed various services online. Reportedly, conditions improved.
It didn’t take a miracle, it took action.
So — the next time you waste an entire day in line at the local courthouse or DMV because they’re underfunded and understaffed, who’s fault is it? And do you argue with operators or should you take it up with politicians who set budgets for different departments?
You can vote to improve social services and funding. Under public opinion and pressure, laws can change instantly. Just look at history where the US has pulled out of wars, changed policies, updated agendas, and performed miracles.
We have two choices. Either we (1) accept our fate and work with the agencies within their limitations; or (2) use your voting power and improve policy.
The option you DON’T have is to feel powerless.