There is a dire picture painted by some of the immigration numbers we are seeing in recent years: about 410,000 people are waiting for their turn for green card interviews, mostly on the basis of close relatives. In 2019, before the pandemic hit, that number was 61,000. Last year the situation was worse: 532,000 application on backlog. The State Department holds about 30,000 interviews monthly, which is still fewer than before the pandemic. The shrinking backlog is due mainly to the fact that fewer people are now called for an interview. Permanent residents up for citizenship now have to wait around a year, as compared to up to eight months before the pandemic.
“This is systemic overload,” says Greg Chen, Director of Government Relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). “The Economist” cites Mr. Chen as specifying that this situation is not entirely due to the pandemic: “The Trump administration literally came very close to bankrupting USCIS in 2020.” Restrictive immigration policies and reduced funding have been the burdens that are now giving the Biden administration a hard time catching up. Despite the fact that Congress increased the funding again, 20% of positions remain unfilled. It will be an uphill battle for a long time, and very detrimental to the economy, as we brought it to your attention in a previous post inspired by the same magazine.
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