There's been a case processing backlog at the USCIS for years, but recently the agency has seen unprecedented levels of unprocessed cases pile up. The American Immigration Lawyers Association recently released report that says the backlog has reached 'crisis' levels, especially when looking at the numbers over the last four years.
For instance, in 2014, the average case took 5 months to process. In 2018, the average case takes 9.5 months to process—nearly twice as long. The sudden increase in backlog can't be attributed to a higher volume of cases. Compared to 2017, there were 17 percent fewer cases overall being processed by the USCIS in 2018.
The AILA offered ways to unblock the backlog of cases in their report. One suggestion was creating more congressional oversight to hold the agency accountable. Overall, the report called on the agency to be more transparent with the public.
The Wall Making Legal Immigration More Difficult
As we've previously reported, the Trump administration has repeatedly taken steps to diminish both legal and illegal immigration. While there have been no laws limiting legal access to citizenship or visas, new administrative or political blocks have appeared on the path to legal residency. These policies have included limiting refugee admissions and including a citizenship question on the census, a practice experts believe would lead to immigrants refusing to participate in the census.
Even the ACLU has had trouble keeping track of all the policy changes under the administration in only two years. Regardless, the ACLU has been challenging many of these cases in court, while immigration attorneys have been doing their best to keep their clients' cases moving smoothly. With dozens of small-but-significant changes happening all the time, it's more important than ever for the USCIS to hold itself to higher standards of transparency.