Quote of the day/week/however long

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."
~William James

Thursday, April 23, 2015

What Mom Said

"It's for your own good." Isn't that what Mom always said? And she was right far more often than we could have admitted at the time - or perhaps even now.

Because we still rebel. We still procrastinate. We still dodge. We still avoid the hard things. We still start far too many sentences with, "Yes, but..."

And we still don't implement the simplest, clearest, most exonerating processes that would keep us well clear of trouble, should trouble come sniffing around. And, of course, in the consular business, trouble is always doing that.

The name of this picture is NOT "The political section hunting NIVs."

Here are only two examples from recently-inspected posts. This first is enough to make any conoff's blood run cold:

"The Offices of Visa Services and Fraud Prevention Programs, the Consular Integrity Division, and the front office of the Bureau of Consular Affairs all expressed concern about the embassy’s contravention of the worldwide visa referral policy. In the latter half of 2013, the Ambassador in seven cases and the DCM in two cases contravened the worldwide nonimmigrant visa referral policy by submitting noncompliant referrals and improperly advocating for issuance.

"Complications arising from noncompliance with the policy led to deteriorating relations between the consular officer and other embassy offices, perceptions of intimidation and isolation, and increased involvement of and intervention by various offices in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. In response to revised guidance from the Bureau of Consular Affairs on referral policy, dated January 13, 2014, Embassy XXX issued a management notice on January 17, 2014. On October 15 and 17, 2014, the embassy conducted briefings for referring officers and obtained current compliance agreements reflecting the revised policy guidance." (Note: the inspection took place only days later.) "The IG team met with the front office and the consular officer, and they confirm that they understand and are committed to continuing to comply with the policy going forward."

Not buried, but resting comfortably in the oh-so-cool OIG language are scenes and pressures that outsiders might only guess at. A consular manager was unable - even with the backing of several different CA offices - to leash and muzzle a runaway COM. The manager finally conducted (or was allowed to conduct) briefings and won compliance while the incoming IG team was literally on its way to post. Finally, a - ahem - heart-to-heart with the IG team was required to tame this bronc. What might have happened to the consular officer after the IG left has gone unstated.

Is it EER time?

Here is the second example, from another post:
"In at least 15 documented cases, the Ambassador contravened the worldwide nonimmigrant visa referral policy (9 FAM Appendix K, Exhibit I) by contacting the consular chief to communicate information about visa applicants instead of providing referral forms for the applicants. The referral policy states, “Referrals are the only allowed mechanism to advocate for or assist visa applicants prior to visa adjudication.” Some of the cases involved previously refused applicants. Referral policy permits requesting assistance via referral on behalf of previously refused applicants only in extremely limited circumstances. Few, if any, of the violations involved applicants who would have been eligible for visa referrals. The consular chief did not take adequate steps to stop the Ambassador’s inappropriate communications or to report them to the Department, as required by Department referral polices."

In this case, the strongest criticism is directed toward the consular chief. The front office's behavior is described but not its attitude, and we are left wondering if it used the same rough tactics as the first post above. The final sentence hints at the probable truth: insufficient effort by the consular chief to at least document and ask for CA's help with the problem.

The worldwide referral policy has been in effect for many years, and is regularly tweaked ( the most recent update was October 2014) to make it even more detailed, complex and onerous - for the referrers, for excellent reasons.

Madam could (but won't) touch here on the continuing, chronic inability of CA and the Department overall to see that this policy is implemented as required and written, and no fooling. It should not be left to beleaguered FS-3 and -2 conoffs to snap e-collars on their ambassadors. She herself, more than once, had her future career threatened by a fat white man in a Costco tie because he didn't like being told that he couldn't do exactly as he pleased in 'his' embassy. There are few more chilling work experiences than that, when you are twelve hours and a million miles from the beltway.

All Madam can tell you, with a full and highly-experienced heart, is to do your best, stand up for what's right, do what the FAM and FAH tell you to do, and - if you succeed or especially if you fail - document not only in your heart of hearts, not only in some quiet little manila folder somewhere, but in a saved exchange of multiple emails with two or more CA offices. And carry that exchange with you on a USB when you leave that place. Just in case. It's for your own good.

Now, stop running with scissors!

PS: One of those two IG reports included this as well: "Embassies are required to conduct at least one validation study per year in addition to an annual validation of referral cases as noted in 7 FAH-1 H-943.6-2 b." Let's just call this a word to the wise for now, and discuss the - well - interesting math of validation studies at a later date.

No comments: