On July 16, 2019, the House of Representatives held a hearing on policy changes and processing delays at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Witnesses included representatives from USCIS, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and the Center for Immigration Studies. Statements were also submitted by various organizations.
Regarding policy changes, Jill Marie Bussey, CLINIC’s Director of Advocacy, cited the expansion of in-person interview requirements and related “extreme vetting,” new rules on requests for evidence and notices of intent to deny, elimination of the 90-day processing requirement for employment authorization documents, information services “modernization” that includes narrowing of the options and points of access for stakeholders to request information and services regarding their pending cases, the ending of self-scheduling of in-person InfoPass appointments at field offices, and diverting resources to enforcement-focused activities. All of these policy changes, she said, are contrary to USCIS’s mission, contribute to backlogs and inefficiencies, and create unnecessary barriers for applicants and their legal representatives, are not justified by data, and thus have contributed to significant consequences and cascading effects for employers, legal service providers, individuals and families, and USCIS and other agencies.
With respect to processing delays, Marketa Lindt, AILA President, testified that USCIS’s average case processing time surged by 46 percent from FY 2016 to FY 2018 and by 91 percent from FY 2014 to FY 2018. “[I]n FY 2018 the agency processed 94 percent of its benefit form types more slowly than in FY 2014. For many of these form types, processing times more than doubled in recent years, and some tripled. This past fiscal year, the agency’s overall backlog of delayed cases exceeded 5.69 million, a 69 percent increase over FY 2014.”