A new policy brief published by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) analyzing USCIS processing times reveals that the agency has reached “crisis” level delays in processing immigrant and non-immigrant petitions. These delays have worsened during the Trump administration.
According to the report the most vulnerable populations include immigrant families, domestic abuse survivors and their children, traumatized and threatened persons seeking humanitarian aid, and U.S. businesses.
Specifically, the report finds that USCIS data released for fiscal years 2014 through 2018 reveals that USCIS is failing to adjudicate cases in a reasonable and timely manner:
- The overall average case processing time surged by 46 percent over the past two fiscal years and 91 percent since FY 2014.
- USCIS processed 94 percent of its form types—from green cards for family members to visas for human trafficking victims to petitions for immigrant workers—more slowly in FY 2018 than in FY 2014.
- Case processing times increased substantially in FY 2018 even as case receipt volume appeared to markedly decrease
- Data revealed a “net backlog” exceeding 2.3 million delayed cases at the end of FY 2017
- DHS identified a net backlog of 2,330,143 USCIS cases as of the end of FY 2017.7
- DHS observed that USCIS’s “net backlog has been as high as 1.7 million in FY 2004 and 1.5 million in FY 2008”—suggesting that USCIS’s net backlog at the conclusion of FY 2017 was its highest on record
- the FY 2017 net backlog more than doubled from 1,047,751 cases at the conclusion of FY 2016—despite only a four percent increase in case receipts during that one-year period
What is to blame?
According to the report the following decisions made under the Trump administration have exacerbated delays and slowed the level of immigration to the United States:
- In 2017, USCIS rescinded longstanding guidance that directed USCIS personnel to give deference to prior determinations when adjudicating nonimmigrant employment-based extension petitions involving the same position and the same employer.31 This shift wastes resources and promotes inconsistent decision-making by compelling adjudicators to needlessly reexamine matters already satisfactorily assessed.
- The Trump administration has overhauled refugee case adjudications, bringing the processing of many of these applications to a virtual standstill.
- In 2017, USCIS implemented a sweeping new in-person interview requirement for employment-based green card applications and Forms I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition, without providing meaningful justification.
- A new “Notice to Appear” policy was put in place threatening to place a dramatically higher number of individuals into deportation proceedings whose applications and petitions are denied.
- A new measure subjecting foreign students and exchange visitors who inadvertently commit even de minimis status violations to deportation proceedings.
- “Deportation traps” where ICE has arrested spouses of U.S. citizens who appear at a USCIS office for an interview in connection with their Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, which if approved would form the basis for lawful permanent residence.
Please click here to read the complete report.