On December 7, 2022, the USCIS released their Fiscal Year 2022 Progress Report.
The 14-page report summarizes the steps that the agency has taken to:
- Reduce immigration backlogs
- Address labor shortages
- Fulfill their humanitarian mission
- Move from fiscal crisis to fiscal responsibility
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 (October 1, 2021 to September 30, 2022), the USCIS naturalized almost one million new US citizens. This was the highest number of naturalized citizens in almost 15 years. The backlog of people waiting in line for US citizenship was reduced by 62%.
These are very impressive numbers. However, huge backlogs remain. The USCIS website states that 80% of naturalization applications take 14-18 months to be completed in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and New York.
Way too long!
EB Green Cards
The report also shows that 275,111 employment-based green cards were issued in FY2022, nearly twice the number as FY2019. The USCIS deserves huge credit for being able to process so many applications.
However, there are over one million people waiting in line for EB green cards, 700,000 of whom were born in India.
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And even though the State Department Visa Bulletin creates the impression that it would take 10-12 years for Indian physicians and IT professionals to get green cards, the real wait is closer to 100 years. (Not a typo!)
Is it fair to make Indian professionals live in the U.S. on H-1B temporary professional visas for their entire lives? What happens when they retire? What happens to their children when they reach the age of 21 and “age-out”?
Is it any wonder that some physicians born in India who are working in medically underserved areas of the U.S. (which make up 25% of our country) are now considering immigrating to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand?
It is Time to Fix Our Broken Immigration System
The problem is that our immigration system is broken, and no matter how hard the USCIS works to decrease processing times, the agency is constrained by outdated laws that only the Congress can fix.
While our political parties cannot seem to agree on legislation to fix problems occurring at our southern border, it should be much easier for them to reform our broken legal immigration system.
Get Rid of the 7% Per-Country Cap
In countries like Canada, it is possible for a qualified professional to become a permanent resident in less than one year.
However, in our country, no more than 7% of persons getting employment-based (EB) green cards each year can be from a particular country.
So, while an accountant from Paraguay (or Monaco, Indonesia, etc.) may be able to get a green card in a year or two, a physician born in India would have to wait over 100 years.
This makes no sense whatsoever!
Stop Separating Children from Their Parents
Worse yet, it is time for Congress to protect the children of parents waiting in line for green cards from “aging-out” and becoming separated from their parents.
Under our current immigration system, when a child born abroad who is waiting with her parents to get a green card, turns 21 years old, she can no longer remain legally in the U.S.
A few of these children may change to another temporary visa category in order to remain in the U.S. However, most of them face a difficult choice: Either leave the U.S. and be separated from their families or remain here illegally.
And despite all the years that these children have waited in line with their parents for green cards, as soon as they turn 21, they lose their place in line.
It is Time to Act Now!
I am a former prosecutor for the Immigration Service (1976-82) and I believe that it is important that people abide by our immigration laws.
However, when the practical effect of our out-of-date immigration system is to make certain people wait in line for a green card longer than they are going to live, and to separate them from their children, our laws urgently need to be updated and improved.
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Carl Shusterman served as an INS Trial Attorney (1976-82) before opening a firm specializing exclusively in US immigration law. He is a Certified Specialist in Immigration Law who has testified as an expert witness before the US Senate Immigration Subcommittee. Carl was featured in the February 2018 edition of SuperLawyers Magazine.