October 25, 2022

Cárdenas Introduces Legislation to Address Severe Case Backlog at USCIS

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congressman Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), reintroduced the Case Backlog Transparency and Accountability Act to address the severe case backlog at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This bill establishes new reporting requirements for USCIS and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to determine the reasons for the processing delays and find potential solutions to reduce the immigration case backlog.

“The extreme immigration backlog at USCIS is leaving countless individuals in limbo,” said Congressman Cárdenas. “Right now, families in my district and across the country are left waiting weeks, months and even years without a single update on their case or let alone a resolution. This isn’t fair to these applicants – they deserve to have the peace of mind that their cases are being handled fairly and timely. A reporting system will improve transparency and help USCIS find the root cause of these processing delays. My hope is that accountability and greater awareness of what isn’t working at USCIS will lead to solutions in the future.”

Between 2015 and 2020, the number of cases awaiting a decision at USCIS grew from 3.2 to 5.8 million. According to USCIS’s own data, processing times are increasing, leaving applicants waiting for a decision for well over seven months for most types of immigration benefit applications.

The Case Backlog Transparency and Accountability Act:

  • Establishes 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 immigration 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 type of immigration benefit application along with any change in that time relative to the prior quarter.
  • Establishes 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
  • Ensures that USCIS and GAO publish these reports on their websites

The legislation is endorsed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) and National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA).

“For years, the families, vulnerable individuals, and U.S. businesses that our more than16,000 members regularly represent have suffered devastating consequences from USCIS’s processing delays,” said American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Executive Director Benjamin Johnson. “Families have been separated, businesses have lost key employees, and vulnerable individuals remain in jeopardy.  We commend Representative Cardenas for remaining steadfast in holding USCIS accountable. This bill will demand that USCIS review and analyze the causes of the ever-growing immigration case backlog and ensure efficient and effective solutions are put in place for its customers.”

"USCIS has taken important steps to increase efficiency and reduce burdens in our immigration system, but there is significant work to be done to fully address the growing needs, especially addressing the backlog”, said Angelica Salas, Executive Director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA). “The Case Backlog and Transparency Act of 2022 will provide USCIS with additional tools to reduce the current backlog and prevent future ones. It will also increase transparency and predictability to ensure that everyone has timely access to fair and quality immigration services."

 "The Case Backlog Transparency and Accountability Act of 2022 represents a positive step towards understanding the causes of USCIS backlogs and having the public reporting that is necessary to increase accountability and transparency," said Nicole Melaku, executive director of the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA). "For years, NPNA has called for USCIS to reduce backlogs and processing delays so that families and individuals do not have to wait unnecessarily for their applications to be processed. We commend this Act for proposing common sense solutions, where Congress and USCIS can work together to address this issue and enhance efficiency and fairness."

To read the Case Backlog Transparency and Accountability Act, click here