Imagine you went to your local DMV to renew your driver’s license and they took your money and said matter-of-factly, “Thank you, we will send you a license in 12 months.” Would you be outraged? How about if you wanted to go on a vacation with your family and you went to the U.S. Post Office and applied to renew your passport and they took your money and said, “Thank you, we will send you that passport in the next 12-14 months.” Would you be satisfied with that answer? In either scenario, would you believe that these two governmental agencies were fulfilling their responsibilities?
This is what legal immigrants in the United States face today when renewing their employment authorization documents or “EADs” as they are commonly called. I say “legal” because there is a misconception in America that unauthorized immigrants are able to apply for EADs at will and “steal” American jobs which is not true. However, those immigrants who have been here for years in line, contributing to the economy and society while awaiting the adjudication of their legal residency applications, or those who are spouses of H-1B or L-2 nonimmigrants for example, find themselves in this unconscionable limbo. They wait for a plastic card that looks like your driver’s license or passport card to be printed. A job that a governmental agency should be able to accomplish with relative ease. Those filing EAD renewal applications have previously established their eligibility for employment authorization, sometimes multiple times. EADs used to be issued in 60-90 days and then suddenly during the Trump Administration, they were not. Over a year ago, recognizing that USCIS was in a resource crunch, Congress authorized USCIS to charge a fee to premium process EADs within 14 days, but the agency again has failed to act to implement this.
Still don’t care because this is someone else’s problem? Imagine you go out to dinner, but there is no one to greet you, cook your food or serve your food. What if your company computer system goes down and there is no one to help you solve the problem? How about if your parent in the nursing home cannot have assistance eating dinner or getting into bed? Do you care now?
USCIS is responsible for the issuance of EADs. So, the question must be, is this newly discovered incompetence by USCIS or is it purposeful dereliction of duty to prevent and deter legal immigrants and nonimmigrants from working? Either way, USCIS leadership should be held accountable. Each day that passes is another lost job in America. Each lost job is lost income to neighborhoods, cities, and states. Income that cannot be spent at local restaurants, stores, schools, and transit. Income that cannot be taxed by local, state, and federal authorities. In short, it is lost opportunity for all. Now, incredulously, the Build Back Better Act would increase the filing fee for EADs from the current $410.00 to $910.00! Five hundred bucks more, without any added services. Well, before you get an unearned raise USCIS, I have a suggestion: do your job!