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AILA’s Summary of Congressional Hearing on USCIS Processing Delays

7/16/19 AILA Doc. No. 19071912.

AILA’s Summary of the July 16, 2019, House Subcommittee Hearing on “Policy Changes and Processing Delays at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services”

On July 16, the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship held a hearing during which a host of lawmakers called USCIS to account for its case processing delays as well as the misguided policy changes compounding them. In his opening statement, Rep. Nadler (D-NY), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, framed the hearing by stating, “these policy changes seem to fix things that were not broken to begin with, and only serve to create unnecessary obstacles to legal immigration.”

USCIS officials comprised the first panel of witnesses. During one exchange with these officials, Rep. Neguse (D-CO) asked whether they would acknowledge that the agency’s own policies have exacerbated processing delays. In response, a USCIS witness conceded, “That is fair.” Before breaking for a vote, Rep. Lofgren (D-CA), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee, added statements to the record from a diverse coalition of groups representing businesses, families, and vulnerable populations, among others. These statements expressed alarm over the magnitude and harmful consequences of the agency’s processing slowdown.

After the vote, the hearing reconvened for a panel comprised of nongovernmental witnesses. AILA President Marketa Lindt testified about the adverse impact of USCIS policy changes on the case backlog and addressed the consequences of that backlog for American businesses nationwide. CLINIC Director of Advocacy Jill Marie Bussey then testified on humanitarian and family-based case processing delays, while Eric Cohen, Executive Director of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, testified on naturalization delays.

Following the panel’s testimony, Rep. Buck (R-CO), the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, emphasized the importance of reducing the case backlog while noting disagreement over its cause. President Lindt’s testimony elicited questions from Chairwoman Lofgren, who noted that “Requests for Evidence (RFEs)” are “skyrocketing” and asked Lindt about the cause and impact of high RFE rates in the H-1B context. President Lindt described how RFEs are issued even when the agency has reviewed a case multiple times and relevant facts remain unchanged. She also conveyed how this increase in RFEs creates uncertainty for businesses, impeding their ability to plan operations.