Many federal government employees think that it is their duty to tell the truth when they testify under oath before a Congressional committee. They also think that when they are sworn to tell the truth, their government will not punish them for doing so. But that is not necessarily so. If they expose wrongdoing by their bosses, telling the truth can get them into trouble.
Neil Jacobs, the assistant district director for investigations for the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Dallas, Texas, was demoted after he criticized his agency in testimony before a subcommittee of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. He was invited to testify after he sent a letter to a Congressional aide in which he criticized an INS program called “Citizenship USA.”
This was a program adopted by the Clinton administration to expedite the naturalization of aliens in 1996. The goal was to get a million new citizens who would have the right to vote in the 1996 elections. The naturalization process was speeded up so much that the FBI was unable to process the fingerprints of many of the applicants to determine if they had criminal records. The INS operated on the assumption that if they did not get a report back from the FBI promptly, the applicant had no criminal record and could be granted citizenship. This resulted in the naturalization of thousands with criminal records
This bothered Neil Jacobs. He recognized the obvious, that the rush to naturalize opened up the door to fraud and the naturalization of people who could not meet the requirements established by law. This also bothered the FBI. It warned the INS that the assumption that no report meant no criminal record was a mistake, but the rush to naturalize aliens could not be slowed down. The administration achieved its goal of getting a million new potential voters naturalized before the November 1996 elections.
Even though Jacobs is a member of the elite Senior Executive Service and has received many commendations, the INS tried to fire him after he testified. The Justice Department blocked that. The INS then suspended him for three weeks and demoted him, giving him a desk with nothing to do.
An INS spokesman claimed that Jacobs was not demoted because of his testimony before Congress, but he couldn?t give any other reason. The Merit System Protection Board recently overruled the INS and ordered that Jacobs be returned to his old job. Jacobs says the INS will continue to fight, and he will too.