Cárdenas, Stivers Introduce Bipartisan Case Backlog and Transparency Act of 2020
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) and Congressman Steve Stivers (R-OH) introduced the bipartisan Case Backlog and Transparency Act of 2020 to address the severe case backlog at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency. This bill establishes new reporting requirements for USCIS and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to determine the reason[s] for the processing delays and find potential solutions to reduce the immigration case backlog.
“Millions of people are awaiting a decision from USCIS, but the processing backlog is causing unprecedented delays,” said Congressman Cárdenas. “This is unfair to applicants and their families and bad for American businesses. This reporting system will create a new level of transparency and accountability for the agency and help determine the root causes of the processing delays.”
“Forcing individuals and families to wait up to two years in limbo is not acceptable. Clearly, there is work that needs to be done to address the backlog that has ballooned to unacceptable levels in recent years,” Stivers said. “The first step to addressing any problem is to understand it, which is exactly what this bill does. I’m grateful to Representative Cárdenas for partnering with me in this effort and taking this crucial first step.”
In recent years, the agency’s processing delays have reached acute levels. From Fiscal Years 2014 to 2018, the average processing time increased by 91%, while the agency’s net backlog of delayed cases grew from about 544,000 to over 2.4 million. According to USCIS’s own figures, processing times have surged by 25 % between FY 17 and FY 19, despite a 10 % decrease in overall receipts.
“On behalf of our 15,000 members, who regularly represent families, vulnerable individuals, and U.S. businesses at USCIS and who witness daily the devastating consequences of processing delays on their clients,” said American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Executive Director Benjamin Johnson. “We commend Representatives Cardenas and Stivers for putting aside partisan politics in order to hold USCIS accountable. This bill will demand that USCIS review and analyze the causes of the ever-growing immigration case backlog and ensure that solutions are in place to more efficiently serve its customers.”
“Representatives Stivers and Cardenas deserve praise for their leadership in forging pragmatic, bipartisan solutions on the challenging issue of ensuring thorough review of applications and reliable processing at USCIS” said Kristie De Peña, Niskanen’s Vice President for Policy. “This bill is a common-sense step to address the serious concerns over USCIS processing and ensure the timely adjudication of all petitions.” De Peña added, “USCIS should offer efficient, effective processing for all petitions. The agency should be committed to not just reversing these harmful processing delays, but ensure a ballooning backlog doesn’t happen again.”
- Establishment of quarterly backlog reporting requirements. Requires DHS, at the end of each of the first three quarters of each fiscal year, to publish on its website, and submit to designated Congressional committees, a report on the case backlog. The quarterly report must:
- Identify the number of pending immigrant benefit applications, the net backlog, and the gross backlog;
- Describe the active suspense categories and the number of cases pending in each category; and
- List the average processing time for each benefit application form type along with any change in that time relative to the prior quarter.
- Establish a biennial GAO report featuring:
- Analysis of factors contributing to the case backlog, including an assessment of the impact of the agency’s own policies on processing times
- An assessment of USCIS procedures for measuring the impact of its policies on processing times
- An evaluation of USCIS’s efforts to eliminate the backlog and to ensure accurate and consistent adjudications
- Recommendations for more expeditiously processing cases
- Ensure that USCIS and GAO publish these reports on their websites