The Subcommittee’s chair, Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Cal.), first held a hearing on the problems at USCIS in July, noting the unusual delays. DHS officials explained that the delays were a result of unexpected spikes in applications (a claim that stands in contrast to the slowing immigration rates
that occurred over the same period), and thus they did not have sufficient personnel to handle the load. They also said USCIS was hiring new personnel, and leveraging new technology, to clear the current backlog.
However, a week after the hearing, it was discovered that USCIS had been loaning personnel to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to assist with administrative duties. Though somewhat related, USCIS and ICE have substantially different duties in the government (USCIS focuses on assisting those seeking legal immigration status, while ICE enforces immigration law and arrests violators), and the skill sets involved are not fully interchangeable. This also means the personnel shortfall was due, at least in part, to deliberate staffing decisions made at DHS to move personnel from USCIS, rather than from unexpected bursts of applications, as was claimed.
The delays in processing have caused problems to both individuals waiting on applications to be processed, as well as businesses that relied on employees hired overseas to fill positions in the United States. The Subcommittee is looking into the decisions that have led to these delays, but thus far, Kevin McAleenan, Acting Secretary of DHS, and Ken Cuccinelli, Acting Director of USCIS, have not responded to requests for further information. As a result, it’s uncertain if, or when, these delays might get better.
These delays can be problematic, but are not insurmountable, with the right legal representation. If you are a non-citizen seeking permanent residency or other immigration relief, please call the attorneys at Bretz & Coven LLP. We will help you through the difficult process of applying for a green card, protecting your rights and giving you the best chance possible at attaining legal status. To schedule a consultation with our New York immigration lawyers, call (212) 267-2555 or visit our contact page.