Court Orders @StateDept to “Undertake Good-Faith Efforts” on Diversity Visa Processing by 9/30/21

 

Via travel.state.gov
On September 9, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia preliminarily enjoined the Department of State from applying the November 2020 prioritization policy guidance to diversity visa (“DV”) 2021 applicants and ordered the Department to undertake good-faith efforts to expeditiously process DV applications (including derivative beneficiaries) by September 30, 2021.  The court stated that the Department may not rely on the November 2020 prioritization guidance to “foreclose or prohibit embassy personnel, consular officers, or any administrative processing center (such as the KCC) from processing, reviewing, or adjudicating a 2021 diversity visa or derivative beneficiary application” and clarified that the order “does not affect the prioritization scheme as to any other visa category or in any other respect.”  The court further explained the order “does not prevent any embassy personnel, consular officer, or administrative processing center from prioritizing the processing, adjudication, or issuance of visas based on resource constraints, limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or country conditions.”
In accordance with the order, the Department of State has instructed consular sections to make every effort within their discretion and subject to posts’ resource constraints, limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and country conditions to prioritize the scheduling and adjudication of additional DV-2021 cases by September 30, 2021.  It is important to note that the court did not order the Department to “prioritize DV-2021 applications over other visa applications.”  The court also did not order the Department to prioritize the adjudication of DV-2021 applications of plaintiffs who have sued the Department over the DV-2021 applications of non-plaintiffs.  The court further said that posts do not have to “drop everything and process DV-2021 applications.”
In accordance with the requirements in the Immigration and Nationality Act and applicable regulations, DV cases will continue to be processed in rank order as required by law, and applicants must be documentarily qualified, have paid all requisite application fees, be able to obtain the required medical exam by a panel physician, and demonstrate that they are eligible for a visa before visa issuance.  DV-2021 applicants may be issued a visa through the end of the fiscal year, on or before September 30, 2021.
If a consular section has the capacity to schedule your DV-2021 case, you will receive a notification by email to check the Entrant Status Check site.  Many diversity visa processing posts are getting emails directly from diversity visa applicants.  The Department has instructed posts to respond to those general inquiries about the September 9th Order and DV-2021 processing with the following message:  We are aware of the court order dated September 9, 2021 from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia regarding the 2021 diversity visa (“DV”) program.  In accordance with that order, post is making good-faith efforts to expeditiously process DV applications (including derivative beneficiaries) by September 30, 2021.  We will continue to process DV cases in rank order as required by law, subject to our resource constraints, limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and country conditions.  If post has the capacity to schedule your case, you will receive a notification by email to check the Entrant Status Check site.”
See GOH et al v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE et al

 

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@StateDept Launches New Awards For Leadership in Diversity and Inclusion

13 Going on 14 — GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27

 

The State Department recently launched the Edward J. Perkins Memorial Award(s) for Leadership in Diversity and Inclusion. According to the FAM, this annual award recognizes employees’ outstanding accomplishments in furthering the Department’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) goals — including equal employment opportunity — through exceptionally effective leadership, skill, imagination, and innovation in extending and promoting diversity and inclusion for those who work at the Department.

“The Edward J. Perkins Memorial Award(s) for Leadership in Diversity and Inclusion recognize outstanding contributions toward improving D&I for a function, a mission, personnel of one facility regional area, or an organizational element of headquarters.  Recipients may demonstrate their commitment across a range of activities: employee-centered inclusion initiatives; promotion of equal employment opportunity principles, efforts to support recruitment and retention of employees from varied backgrounds; efforts that expand and embrace our understanding of inclusiveness; multicultural programming or related initiatives; community outreach activities; and/or several other possibilities.  The Edward J. Perkins Memorial Award(s) for Leadership in Diversity and Inclusion may also recognize significant actions to ensure a workplace free of discrimination (including harassment) or other behavior detrimental to an inclusive work environment.”

There are two award categories. The award recipient in each category receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State.
(1)  Senior Leadership in Diversity and Inclusion Award: The recipient of the Senior Leadership in Diversity and Inclusion Award does not receive a cash award. Members of the Senior Foreign Service and Senior Executive Service (or equivalent) are only eligible to receive the Senior Leadership in Diversity and Inclusion Award.
(2)  Outstanding Leadership in Diversity and Inclusion Award:  The recipient of the Outstanding Leadership in Diversity and Inclusion Award receives a cash award of $10,000. Employees at the GS-15/FS-01 (or equivalent) grade and below are only eligible to receive the Outstanding Leadership in Diversity and Inclusion Award.
Political appointees are also eligible for the award “consistent with OPM guidance.” Also eligible for the award are Locally Employed (LE) staff, whether employed under a direct-hire appointment or on a Personal Services Agreement and eligible family members (EFMs) serving under a family member appointments are also eligible.  (EFM as defined per 14 FAM 511.3).
The award is named after Ambassador Edward J. Perkins, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Career Minister. “As Director General of the Foreign Service, he was lauded for a demonstrated commitment to a broadly diverse Foreign Service at all levels of the profession, including the Thomas R. Pickering Fellowship initiative.” He served as U.S. ambassador to Australia, the United Nations, Liberia, and was the first Black U.S. Ambassador to apartheid South Africa.  He passed away in November 2020.

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Putting Out Our First Public Request to @StateDept’s First Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer

Since you’re here, please check out our first fundraising since our funding ran out in August 2020.  We could use your help to keep the blog going. Please see GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27

On April 12, Secretary Blinken announced the appointment of former Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as the State Department’s chief diversity and inclusion officer. This is a first in the department’s history.

Last year, the Government Accountability Office found that racial or ethnic minorities in the department’s Civil Service were up to 29 percent less likely to be promoted than their white peers with similar qualifications.

The report also found that the higher up you went in the department, the lower the proportion was of women and racial or ethnic minorities.

In other words: up in rank, down in diversity.

There’s been a lot of attention focused on what’s happened with diversity and inclusion in the last few years, including the alarming lack of diversity at the highest levels of the State Department.

But the truth is this problem is as old as the department itself.

It’s systemic.  It goes much deeper than any one institution or any one administration – and it’s perpetuated by policies, practices, and people to this day.

That’s why we’ve got to grapple with the problem of unequal representation – and its root causes out in the open.

We can’t sweep it under a rug and pretend it doesn’t exist.  This work is hard, it can be painful, but it’s going to make us better diplomats, and it will help us do right by the people on our team who have for too long waged this battle alone.

It’ll also show other countries that we’re practicing what we preach when it comes to working to advance equality and respect here at home.

Today, we’re taking an important step in that direction by naming Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as our chief diversity and inclusion officer – the first in the department’s history.
[…]
We’re asking hard questions.

What’s the full spectrum of diversity we aim to reflect?

How do we incentivize and reward progress?  How do we hold ourselves accountable when we fall short?

And recruitment and advancement are just one part of a much broader challenge.

How do we ensure that the voices of people who have often been marginalized and underrepresented are afforded equal weight and respect – by their colleagues, and by our policymaking process?

To change the numbers, we have to change the culture – our norms, our behaviors, our biases.

We can’t build lasting diversity without first building an environment where all people are valued.

That’s the foundation.  Laying it is going to be hard work, but I consider it one of my greatest responsibilities as Secretary of State.

We are pleased to see that the new appointee reports directly to Secretary Blinken.
We’d like to make our first public request to the new CDIO.
In 2020, the State Department lost in a discrimination lawsuit filed by an FSO of Hispanic heritage. In that litigation, a document production request was made for data showing what percentage of FSOs who are selected out are minorities. The Department was also asked for the gender/racial breakdown of those who are low ranked by promotion boards. The State Department  never produced these statistics.
The State Department could add 1200 diverse new FS employees every year but if they are losing them at the midlevels quietly, the tops ranks will remain the same. We need to see the data of those selected out for non-promotion and data for the gender and racial composition of those low ranked by promotion boards. Right now, that’s a black box. Without it, the diversity and inclusion efforts could become just another  hamster on a wheel project.  No one wants to see that, obviously.
So we’re calling on the first State Department CDIO Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley to make it a priority to publicly release the following DGHR data:
–A. 2016-2020 data showing what percentage of FSOs who are selected out are minorities plus breakdown by ethnicity/race;
–B.  2016-2020 data that shows the ethnic/racial/gender breakdown of those who are low ranked by promotion boards.
The 2016-2020 data should span the tenures of Clinton, Kerry, Tillerson and Pompeo.  Who knows what we’ll find there but we think it’s a good place to start.
If the State Department’s new CDIO does not take public requests, perhaps our friends on the Hill invested in advancing equality at our oldest executive agency can help pry this data from Foggy Bottom’s cold lock box over at DGHR. Best if it happens this year, please, we may not be around far, far into the future.

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@StateDept Updated Assignment Restrictions Regs in 2020, Also Where’s the Preclusion Data?

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Last week, Politico published a piece about hundreds of people of color at the State Department handed “assignment restrictions” due to concerns over split loyalties or being susceptible to foreign influence. See Foreigners in their own country: Asian Americans at State Department confront discrimination. In 2017, The Foreign Service Journal published In Pursuit of Transparency in Assignment Restriction Policies by FSOs Christina T. Le and Thomas T. Wong who at that time were the current and past presidents of the Asian American Foreign Affairs Association (AAFAA). Excerpt below:

Employees’ concerns regarding the assignment restrictions process were plentiful: it was unfair, lacked transparency and was based on ethnic origin or family heritage. Our advocacy to the State Department on the issue began in 2009 and continued in earnest through 2016.

The case was framed by input from countless numbers of employees who came to us expressing real frustration, disillusionment and anger over the lack of transparency and accountability in the process. In some cases, the department had prioritized hiring these officers because of their language skills, only to turn around and preclude them from using those valued language skills overseas.

While assignment restrictions affect many State department employees of different backgrounds, we accumulated substantial anecdotal evidence that it has disproportionately affected employees of AAPI descent. Our data suggested assignment restrictions were levied with race as a factor, with disregard for mitigating circumstances and even based on incorrect facts.

According to the authors, the efforts to confront these issues went back many years: “Mariju Bofill first raised the issue with the Secretary of State in 2009, after consultations with the department’s legal advisor, and continued to raise it during the following three years. Cecilia Choi took the baton in 2012, working with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security to try to come to a fair solution. In 2013, The Washington Post featured an article on the subject, “At the State Department, Diversity Can Count Against You,” highlighting the perspectives of several Foreign Service officers.”
In May 2017, AFSA issued guidance on new provisions governing assignment limitations as negotiated with the State Department; these were reportedly implemented on October 21, 2017 and can be found in 12 FAM 233.5.  The latest update were done on June  24, 2020:

Per FAM, assignment restrictions are conditions placed on a security clearance.  They are used to prevent potential targeting and harassment by foreign intelligence services as well as to lessen foreign influence and/or foreign preference security concerns; for example, if an employee and/or his or her close family members maintain citizenship or dual citizenship with that country or have substantial financial interests or foreign contacts there.  Foreign influence and preference are two of the U.S. Government’s Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information.

Assignment restrictions may be determined when the initial clearance determination is made, during periodic reinvestigation, or when an individual’s personal situation changes; i.e., marriage, cohabitation, etc. (see 12 FAM 270).  An individual may be restricted from permanent assignment to a particular country or countries, or in some cases, a desk and/or program where that country or countries are the primary focus.  Desks or other positions may present vulnerabilities for targeting when there is frequent official contact with foreign individuals.  Individuals with an assignment restriction to a country may not serve temporary duty (TDY) in that country for more than a total of 60 days during any 365 day period.

The 2020 FAM update allows for a review within 30 days of receiving the assignment restrictions at an employee’s request, on exceptional circumstances the employee/applicant may also request an additional 15 days review, and there us a review on the assignment restrictions by DS/SI/PSS each time an individual’s continued eligibility for access to classified information is re-adjudicated, typically every five years.
The thing that’s clear in the regs is that the initial assignment restriction is conducted by Diplomatic Security. The  reviewer is also Diplomatic Security. After that review, the decision by DS/DSS becomes final. There is no appeal authority above Diplomatic Security. The State Department’s personnel chief, yes, the DGHR said in a congressional hearing that she “does not know enough about the process to answer the question” (see video below).
The updated regs also do not indicate who tracks, and keep the data about these assignment restrictions. The report on Politico points out that the State Department is required by law to provide to Congress “the number and nature of assignment restrictions and preclusions for the previous three years”. This was part of the Department of State Authorities Act, Fiscal Year 2017 dated December 16, 2016 (see 22 USC 2734c: Employee assignment restrictions).  Which means Tillerson in 2017 or Pompeo in 2018 would have been required to submit preclusion data to Congress dating back at least three years.  And yet, the Politico report said that a State Department spokesperson was unable to say how many diplomats across the department are currently subject to restrictions.
Well, now.  So either the State Department ignored a congressional reporting requirement or the information is available but in a lock box?  Who wants to share?
Congressional representatives like Andy Kim of NJ who previously worked for the State Department has publicly voiced a demand that “we fix this problem.”

Below is the top official in charged of personnel including assignments at the State Department told by the congressman from California to “Maybe you might want to find more about this process since you’re Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Global Talent and this is affecting your State Department employees … “

 


 

 

State/M Brian Bulatao Suspends All @StateDept Diversity and Inclusion Training Programs

 

On October 23, the State Department released an ALDAC cable on the “Department Implementation of Executive Order on Race and Sex Stereotyping.” The cable came with a message from the Under Secretary for Management and Pompeo BFF Brian Bulatao. 
The guidance says that  starting Friday, October 23, 2020, the Department is temporarily pausing all training programs related to diversity and inclusion in accordance with Executive Order (E.O.) 13950 of September 22, 2020 on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping. 
The president, who is undoubtably, the top promoter of divisiveness in this country has issued another dumpster fire here: Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping, September 22, 2020.
The State Department cable says that the “pause” will allow time for the Department and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to review program content.  “The Department is in regular communication with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and OPM to discuss the effective implementation of E.O. 13950 and to minimize the time period needed for review to ensure approved programs can resume in a timely fashion.” 
Apparently, the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) will “collect relevant training materials” for submission to OPM’s review “in a complete, all-inclusive submission. ” 
What the heck is that? They think FSI is hiding some of their um, training?
The cable also says that the “Department continues to welcome input from employees on how to improve diversity and inclusion efforts, including from leadership, existing and emerging bureau and post Diversity and Inclusion Councils, and Employee Affinity Groups.”
Wait … emerging bureau at State? Hmmn … somebody has a pet new bureau over there, huh?
Bulatao’s message says that the Department “leadership” will be requesting in a separate cable “all bureaus and overseas missions to review and confirm that any materials related to diversity and inclusion courses or programs are consistent with the Executive Order.”
The OMB Memorandum says in part “Agency employees and contractors are not to engage in divisive training of Federal workers. Noncompliance by continuing with prohibited training will result in consequences, which may include adverse action for Federal employees who violate the Order.”
Agencies must:
“Review these trainings to determine whether they teach, advocate, or promote the divisive concepts specified in the Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping ( e.g., that the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist or that an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive). Reviews of specific training curriculum materials can be supplemented by a broader keyword search of agency financial data and procurements for terms including, but not limited to:
      • “critical race theory,”
      • “white privilege,”
      • “intersectionality,”
      • “systemic racism,”
      • positionality,”
      • “racial humility,”
      • “unconscious bias”
When used in the context of diversity training, these terms may help to identify the type of training prohibited by the E.O. Searching for these key words without additional review does not satisfy the review requirements of the E.O.”
And contractors?
“Contractors who are found to have provided a training for agency employees that teaches, advocates, or promotes the divisive concepts specified in the E.O. in violation of the applicable contract will be considered for suspension and debarment procedures consistent with the E.O. and in accordance with the procedures set forth in Part 9 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation.”
See OPM – M-20-37 Ending Employee Trainings that Use Divisive Propaganda to Undermine the Principle of Fair and Equal Treatment for All (September 28, 2020) (4 Pages, 4,370 KB).
Holymoly macaroni!
If  the Federal government is about to revert to just calling ’em pranks, why should training be needed, luv?
Remember that time when FBI Agents Hung A Noose Over an African American DS Agent’s Workspace Twice, and the FBI Called It “Pranks”?

State/OIG: EUR’s Workforce Diversity Data-Below Department Averages #42outof43

 

Via State/OIG:

 

FSO Kip Whittington: The Color of Diplomacy (via War on The Rocks)

Kip Whittington is a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Department of State who has served in the Middle East and Latin America. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. government.
Below excerpted from War on the Rocks:

Professional Reflections: The U.S. Foreign Service of Today

I recall day one of my A-100 Foreign Service orientation class, a moment of true excitement and anxiety for any new Foreign Service officer preparing to embark on a journey to an unknown destination. For me, it was a career that would scratch the itch for public service and the fascination with foreign cultures, politics, and cuisine. But as I took a seat and searched the room, I noticed my class consisted of two black officers, including myself, out of 75 (my wife’s class had one, seven years prior). Weeks later, I was pleased to see the subsequent orientation class with substantially more people of color, but I soon learned the majority were hired through fellowship programs designed to increase diversity at the State Department. A monumental step, but I wondered: Why the glaring distinction with non-fellowship hires? It is such a stark one that minority officers are often assumed to be fellows, as if that is the only way racial and ethnic minorities can enter the field. The perception will likely not change soon, as only 7 percent of the U.S. Foreign Service is represented by employees who identify as black, a mere 1 percent increase since 2002.

In 2020, the U.S. diplomatic corps, regrettably, does not represent the true diversity and talent of the United States. And it shows.

It shows every time a visa applicant asks to speak to a “real American” at the interview window, as an Asian-American colleague experienced. The interviewee demanded he speak to a supervisor, looking over my colleague’s shoulder for the “pale, male, and Yale” American who surely must have been around the corner. My colleague granted the request, inviting the consul to the window. The consul was Afghan-American. I relished the satisfaction of imagining the applicant’s facial expression in that moment. But now, six years after the encounter, knowing only 6 percent of Foreign Service employees are of Asian descent, I ponder what assumptions remain about U.S. citizens in the minds of those we interact with abroad.

American Academy of Diplomacy Calls on @StateDept to Improve Diversity

On June 9, the American Academy of Diplomacy called on the State Department to improve diversity in its ranks. It says that it  believes that “a diplomatic service and other representatives of US foreign policy need to look like America, an essential part of representing our country abroad.” Excerpt:

The State Department falls short of this goal. Women and minorities continue to be significantly underrepresented in the Department of State, most glaringly in the senior ranks. Out of 189 U.S. Ambassadors serving abroad today, there are three African American and four Hispanic career diplomats. Thus, the Academy supports the following five commitments, the implementation of which can begin immediately:

1. The Department of State should publicly and repeatedly reaffirm and strengthen its previous commitments to establish a culture of diversity and inclusion in the Department of State. The Director General of the Foreign Service’s recent call for employees to engage in honest conversations with their peers is a good start.

2. The Department of State should expand and seek to substantially and verifiably increase the recruitment of minorities and women. This should include outreach to historically minority-serving institutions, increasing the number of Diplomats in Residence at these institutions, increasing the number of internships from minority and women candidates, and targeting future minority and women candidates starting at the high school level.The Department should significantly expand its ROTC-like fellowship programs for aspiring minority officers.

3. The Department of State should strengthen existing mentorship programs to specifically support minority and women officers. Senior officers should be assigned to mentor and sponsor younger officers from different backgrounds than their own. The Department should study best practices of how corporations sponsor future leaders who are minorities and women.

4. The Department of State should work to increase the assignment and promotions of minority and women candidates to the senior ranks and positions of the Foreign Service. A special effort should be placed on the retention of middle and senior level officers.

5. The Department should establish a culture of accountability for officers to ensure that they fulfill their diversity and inclusion objectives.