In Early March 2019, Kirstjen Nielsen (Secretary of Dept. of Homeland Security) testified to a House Committee that record immigration into the U.S. over the past months have to lead to record projections for the rest of the year. In fact, in February, U.S. Border Patrol said more than 76,000 migrants crossed the U.S. Mexico border. Homeland Security officials say this is an 11-year high.

Nielsen used this data to justify the more severe scrutiny of allowing (or not allowing) migrants into the U.S. including asylum seekers. Border patrol commissioners say that detention centers are at “breaking points” trying to keep up with medical needs and general care with more people arriving at “at capacity” detention facilities at a rate of thousands per day.

How This Impacts Legal Immigration

Nearly 830,000 people are awaiting their immigration hearings in about 60-immigration courts throughout the U.S. Depending on where an individual’s case is being heard, the wait times for hearings can be anywhere from months to years to process. In California, for example, just over 149,000 people are awaiting an immigration hearing, and almost 62,000 are in San Francisco alone.

These numbers create a backlog for the immigration system and increase the time it takes to legally admit someone to stay in the U.S. permanently, including those seeking asylum. Here are five contributing factors as to why the immigration system takes so long in the U.S.

  • Family Quotas – The U.S. immigration courts are handling a lot of cases including those based on people seeking to bring family members into the U.S. There are minimum waiting periods for these groups of people leaving some waiting many years to get an opportunity to live in the United States.
  • Very Few Courts and Judges – There are nearly 400 immigration judges spread out among the almost 60-immigration courts across the U.S. As you might already see, with nearly 830,000 people needing a court hearing, the wait time leads to months and years for many seeking to stay in the U.S.
  • Work Quotas – Similar to that of family-based quotas, there are only so many “workers” allowed into the United States per year. This stresses the court system even further making those waiting for “asylum” an even longer process leading to much uncertainty and without assistance.
  • Background Checks – The United States Customs and Immigration Service is required to do background checks on anyone wishing to stay, work, or permanently live in America. These background checks are used to look for those who have criminal records or may prove to be a threat to the U.S. and its citizens. While the processing time on background checks has improved with technology, the investigation still takes time. This is even more true for those who have common surnames such as Rodriguez, Lee, Kim, Patel, etc.
  • A Flawed System – Between the litany of paperwork and the lack of officers doing immigration processing work, the system is simply flawed. Whether paperwork is lost, personnel move from one department to another, and cases being moved around to try and meet needs; it’s inevitable that something goes wrong in the processing of these cases.

We know that waiting for an immigration system to keep up with the new demands of migrants, and asylum seekers can be frustrating and uncertain. If we can help you through this process, please reach out to Landerholm Immigration so our immigration lawyers can look further at your case to help you through it.