Backlogs in Immigration Processing Persist
This report examines the scope and extent of the United States immigration system’s chronic backlog problem. It offers insight into the factors that contribute to protracted processing delays for naturalization and permanent residency applications before highlighting the steps the government has taken to address the issue.
The report finds that the number of backlogged applications for immigration benefits has increased dramatically, by over 1,000 percent, since 1990. The greatest contributor to the backlog appears to be the significant growth in the number of naturalization applications, which nearly quadrupled between 1992 and 1997 due to a combination of legislative measures which required green card holders to apply for costly new documents, barred legal immigrants from public benefits eligibility, expanded the grounds by which non-citizens could be arrested, detained, and deported. These factors, combined with stiffened penalties for unauthorized immigrants, appear to have led to a parallel increase in applications for adjustment of status to permanent residency, which increased by an unprecedented 920 percent between 1994 and 2003. In addition, the report attributes resource-intensive and time-consuming post-9/11 security measures to further delays in processing.
While U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and Department of Homeland Security have launched a Backlog Reduction Plan that stresses technological and procedural improvements, the author remains skeptical of its impact, as the implementation of these new policies coincides with changes in accounting practices by which backlogged applications are tallied.