A recent article published by Houston Public Media details the findings of a new study by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). In that study, statistics show that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processing times have increased by 46% since Trump took office, although the number of petitions received by USCIS in fiscal year 2018 decreased.
Overall, processing times have nearly doubled since 2014, which is an increase of 91%. The delays are affecting families, businesses, and the most vulnerable populations, including women fleeing violence. AILA characterizes the current status of the delays as crisis-level. Individuals waiting on the processing of their applications are often unable to work, reunite with their families, or get out of refugee camps.
The USCIS backlog, as of the end of fiscal year 2017, had reached more than 2.3 million. This figure demonstrates a 100% increase in a year’s time, although the receipt of petitions during that same year increased only 4%. Immigration advocates are characterizing the massive delays and backlogs as an “invisible wall” that is preventing legal immigration processes from operating in an efficient and timely manner.
Average Delay for Immigrant Visas Has Increased 46% Since 2014
Although the AILA report attributes much of the delays to new policies enacted by the Trump administration that make immigration processes more difficult, delays also increased to some degree during the last two years of the Obama administration. Nonetheless, new security protocols have mired USCIS processing of most types of petitions down substantially. For instance, every employment-based green card applicant now must undergo a personal interview, which takes substantially more time than processing applications without personal interviews.
These processing delays have a significant impact on cities with high rates of immigrant residents, such as Houston. The city of Houston has 1.66 million foreign-born residents. About 531,000 of these residents hold green cards, and another 83,000 are legally present in the U.S. pursuant to temporary visas. Another 30% of this population is undocumented, a figure which includes those currently protected by DACA and TPS programs.
At Peek & Toland, we care about helping you obtain through your immigration problems. We will focus our efforts on advocating on your behalf and representing your interests throughout the immigration process. Our knowledgeable immigration lawyers know the best strategies for gathering documentation to support your goals. Allow us to handle your immigration law case by sitting down with us today and discussing your situation.