The number of green card slots allocated to such groups as ministers of religion, former Voice of America employees, and the Iraqis who put their lives on the line for us as our translators for our military is endangered by the growth of a specialized, largely unknown legalization program for aliens in the United States who are dependents of the Juvenile Court system.
About 99 percent of these youngsters are in the nation illegally, but as "juvenile court dependents" they will get full green card status once approved. They have to show that they are wards of the juvenile court system and have been abused or neglected by their parents, who, in almost all cases, are also illegal aliens.
It's an odd little program that has been — of course — expanded remarkably by the Obama administration, to the extent that it now threatens to at least delay visa issuances for such worthy groups as the Iraqi translators and other aliens who worked for the United States overseas.
It is just another indication of the growing trend to use the immigration system to help victims of various kinds, as pointed out in an earlier posting. But these victims are not people kicked around by dictators, nor are they our allies in losing wars, they are simply young illegal aliens who are now wards of the courts, because they — or someone on their behalf — successfully complained to the courts about the behavior of their parents. That the parents are almost all in illegal status is my surmise and is, in fact, carefully not noted by the government.
This program is not to be confused with various other amnesties and semi-amnesties, such as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) or the issuance of U visas for crime victims, their spouses, their children, and in some cases their siblings. Nor is this part of the various refugee and asylum programs, nor the programs for alien spouses abused by citizen or green card spouses — it is in addition to all of them.
Some years ago Congress created a catch-all category, the fourth preference of the employment-based stream of legal immigrants, and set a ceiling of about 10,000 admissions annually for everyone in the category. For years there were too few applicants to create backlogs. But now the number of approvals in the special juvenile category has risen to the point where if it continues to grow it will create backlogs for others in the category, such as the interpreters, ministers, other religious workers, and alien former employees of the U.S. government.
Here's how the program has expanded in recent years:
The numbers for the years 2004 to 2010 are for admissions and adjustments and are from the 2012 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics; the later ones are approved petitions from a set of statistics just published by USCIS.
Over the 12-year period shown above, the program experienced explosive growth; the 2015 figure is more than 13 times the one shown for 2004.
One of the reasons the program has grown so much in recent years is fairly typical of how the administration expands such programs — while the program, by law, is for people under 21, the government has simply changed the definition. Formerly, one had to be under 21 when the decision was made to grant the benefits. Then DHS ruled that that you had to be under 21 when you filed for the benefit, not when the decision was made.
If the approvals numbers remain high, then all EB-4 applicants, not just the juveniles, will face backlogs. Currently there are none.