FacultyFaculty/Author Profile
Phyllis A. Coven

Phyllis A. Coven

US Citizenship and Immigration Services
District Director
New York, NY, USA


Phyllis A. Coven officially entered on duty as District Director for the New York District Office on March 24, 2014 following two years of service as the District Director of the Los Angeles District Office (March 2012-2014). 

Background Experience and Educational Information

Ms. Coven has two decades of experience working for both the federal government and international organizations leading a wide range of immigration and refugee initiatives.  She has worked on numerous migration emergencies and is one of the few members of the Department who has worked for USCIS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Department of Justice (DOJ), as well as the United High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Ms. Coven began her federal service as a Deputy Associate Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice where she was responsible for the immigration portfolio (1993-95). She later served as the Director of the INS Office of International Affairs (1995-98), where she was the key policy and operational official responsible for implementing the reform of the United States Asylum System, and managing numerous, multifaceted immigration service and enforcement programs and initiatives.  She served as the primary point of contact with the National Security Council for the Department of Justice and INS in handling the Haitian and Cuban boat emergencies in the mid-90s. She played a pivotal role in the Cuban Migration Talks, in creating the first Regional Consultative Process on Migration, and in establishing unprecedented cooperation with Mexico and Central American governments on returns.

Ms. Coven has extensive experience working overseas in the migration arena.  She served as Officer in

Charge of the INS Office in Johannesburg, South Africa (1998-2001) and as Field Office Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Amman, Jordan (2008-09).  She was recruited by UNHCR to serve on a special secondment from the Department (Geneva, 2002-2004).  As a Senior Advisor on Resettlement her role was to institutionalize and enhance the use of as Resettlement as a Durable Solution.  She is credited with having created a Group Methodology for Resettlement which now accounts for more than one half of the referrals UNHCR makes to resettlement partners.  She also served as a Technical Migration Specialist to the International Organization for Migration in Geneva and Africa (2005-09), teaching and establishing capacity building initiatives throughout Africa and the Middle East.  Ms. Coven returned to the Federal Government in 2009 to head up the Office of Detention Policy and Planning for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the office established to design and oversee implementation of detention reform.

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