The Trump Administration has done much to damage legal immigration. In line with the removal of “nation of immigrants,” “customer,” and “service” from the USCIS mission statement, the Trump Administration has created an invisible wall that significantly restricts legal immigration. Policies introduced under this administration, which include ending deference to prior adjudications, imposing in-person interview requirements on all employment-based adjustment applicants, limiting the ability to schedule an appointment with USCIS, and increasing the timeline before which case inquiries can be filed, have drastically slowed the process of legal immigration and eroded the services provided to applicants and petitioners. This has resulted in real life consequences for the individuals and businesses we represent and we must all take action to #HoldUSCISAccountable.
A recent report from AILA includes the following startling statistics: 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 markedly decreased. Other agency data lays bare a USCIS “net backlog” exceeding 2.3 million delayed cases at the end of FY 2017. This total amounts to more than a 100 percent increase over the span of one year despite only a four percent rise in case receipts during that period.
Faced with these unprecedented delays and lack of communication, AILA members have 3 choices in representing their clients:
- Do nothing. This is certainly an option, but not the only option.
- Use available inquiry channels, including AILA Liaison, the Ombudsman’s office and congressional inquiries, though sadly these inquiries are not as effective as in the past.
- File a lawsuit in federal court seeking a judicial order requiring the government to adjudicate within a defined period of time.
Two forms of redress exist, one under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) for unreasonable delay, and the other for extraordinary delays. Often – – but certainly not always – – filing a mandamus or unreasonable delay complaint results in a prompt adjudication, especially when the case has been pending beyond published processing times.
In order to combat USCIS’ invisible wall, AILA, through its Administrative Litigation Task Force (ALTF), is providing attorneys and their clients facing these unreasonable delays with the tools and resources to #HoldUSCISAccountable. Check out AILA’s resources for members, including national webinars, local chapter presentations, a listserv devoted solely to mandamus inquiries and experiences, a mentor program, and more. This is, of course, in addition to the increased efforts to bring the unprecedented inaction and delays in USCIS adjudications to public attention.
We don’t want to clog the courts with extraneous lawsuits. Rather, the goal is to #HoldUSCISAccountable and effect process change, while supporting our clients. Ideally the agency will realize that it is better to more efficiently adjudicate cases on a timely basis, rather than be mired in backlogs and litigation, making such lawsuits unnecessary in the future and enabling our clients to obtain the benefits to which they are entitled by law.