Memphis attorney part of group leading suit against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 12: An immigration activist participates in a rally near the U.S. Supreme Court as they demonstrate to highlight immigrant essential worker rights, on May 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. The group marched on Capitol Hill as the Senate Judiciary Committee held a subcommittee hearing on the role of essential immigrant workers in America.” (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
A group of immigration-policy attorneys plan to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in an effort to force the processing of thousands of Green Cards to combat backlogs made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
IMMpact Litigation, a group comprised of several law firms, announced its intent to force the USCIS to process employment-based Green Card applications by Sept. 30, adding that a growing backlog of visas could disappear from availability by the next fiscal year and leave immigrants waiting for years to have their applications to be processed.
Greg Siskind, a Memphis-based immigration attorney, said the class-action suit will primarily focus on Indian nationals but that the current backlogs have been building up for more than 20 years because Congress has declined to increase Green Card caps since 1990, when there was a “much less global economy.”
“Congress hasn’t passed any immigration bills since 2004,” said Siskind. “It gives you an idea of how tough the politics have gotten.”
The U.S. allocates 7% of Green Cards—a permanent residency card allowing immigrants to live and work in the U.S.— to each country, a policy leading some countries with more demand to be placed on a backlog. By law, leftover visas are required to go back to a category reserved for the families of work-visa holders, but because of how these visas are calculated, the same number of visas could be made available in 2023, leading to a net loss of 100,000 work visas.
“If you’re from Monaco, you never have to worry about the cap. If you’re from India or China, you have to worry about it,” Siskind said.
“It’s very much luck of whatever country you were born in determines how long your wait is going to be. That is, in my opinion, unfair,” he added.
During the Trump administration, backlogs increased under a more restrictive immigration policy than past administrations had, and the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the USCIS’s ability to process applications even more.
The USCIS acknowledged the problem but has been unable to increase efficiency. IMMpact Litigation believes this year will be the same and wants to ensure the visa numbers get used.
Immigrants who come to the U.S. on work visas are able to come with their immediate families and are able to apply for permanent residency. But at the pace that the USCIS is processing visas, applicants could wait a lifetime before their applications are processed.
Children of work-visa holders face losing their legal status when they turn 21 if their parents are unable to get their applications for permanent residency processed.
If the adult children are unable to regain their legal status, even if they have lived in the U.S. since childhood, they are forced to return to their country of origin.
“It’s an antiquated system,” said Siskind.
The IMMpact attorneys plan to file lawsuits in several courts around the country.
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