USCIS Priorities for Backlogs Show (Unwitting) Restrictionist Tendencies

Serve to delay immigration and work authorization

By David North on October 28, 2022

USCIS has an enormous backlog of decisions, fully 8,753,371 of them as of June 30 of this year, and this suggests a decline in future legal immigration from what it would be were decisions to be made more promptly.

We have shown earlier that USCIS’s priority is to process naturalization papers, thus creating more voters. As we have reported, the only major stream of applications in which the backlog was reduced was that of naturalizations, with backlogs overall growing by 9 percent over a recent 12-month period.

Today’s closer examination of a longer list of backlogs shows USCIS is, by and large, and unwittingly, moving to discourage current and future legal immigration while it continues to inconvenience legal aliens now in the nation. Thus, its open borders rhetoric and its obvious tolerance of illegal immigration from south of the border are not reflected in how the agency deals with resident aliens and their paperwork.

But the agency’s non-processing of a form I-130 for alien relatives of U.S. residents, for example, somehow does not catch the eye the way illegal aliens being flown to Martha’s Vineyard does, and the subject has largely been ignored by the press.

What happens when you analyze the growth of the 13 largest backlogs for June 30, 2021, to June 30, 2022, an all-Biden time period? Our study deals with the 13 largest backlogs on the earlier date — in each instance there were more than 200,000 applications received but not decided. (There are another 40 smaller categories.) In three instances, at the end of the period, there were more than a million applications pending; they were:

  • Petitions for alien relatives (of U.S. citizens or green card holders): 1,699,329
  • Applications for employment authorization (filed by aliens): 1,512,258
  • Applications to replace a lost permanent resident (green) card: 1,009,769

These are large numbers, with the backlogs in the first category postponing legal immigration, in the second slowing the growth of the legal alien labor force, and in the third being, at most, an inconvenience for the aliens so petitioning. All would seem to be trends opposed by the current White House in operations totally managed by the administration. Odd.

We are publishing below some data on the 13 largest backlogs showing the percentage change over the year and our own short description of the apparent migration and labor market impact of these growing backlogs. While we deal with 13 categories, only naturalization and one other had lower numbers of pending cases.

Growth and Impact of USCIS Backlogs, June 30, 2021, to June 30, 2022

Category (of Petitions or Applications) Percentage change in size of the backlogs, June 2021 to June 2020 Apparent Migration or Labor Market Impact of Growing Backlogs
Replace Permanent Resident (Green) Card 61.40% Inconvenience to affected aliens, no obvious impact on migration levels
Asylum 21.90% Postpones (and thus reduces) future legal immigration
Advance Parole Travel Document (for Aliens Now in the U.S.) 14.80% Postpones legal status for aliens in U.S. thus slows chain migration
Petition for Alien Relative (of U.S. citizen or LPR) 11.80% Postpones both near-future and far-future migration
Temporary Protected Status 11.20% Postpones increases in legal work force (the aliens are already in the States)
Waivers 11.00% A mix, generally slows migration
Application to Register for Green Card or Adjust Status, Employment 10.80% Aliens mostly here, backlogs slow chain migration
Extend or Change Nonimmigrant Status 9.00% Aliens here; larger backlogs slow future chain migration
U (Crime Victim) Petitions 5.30% As above
Employment Authorization Documents 2.00% Aliens here, backlogs decrease legal workforce
Application to Register for Green Card or Adjust Status, Family 0.80% Aliens mostly here, backlogs slow chain migration
Remove Conditions on Residence -0.40% N/A
Naturalization -24.70% N/A

Source: “Number of Service Wide forms By Quarter, Form Status and Processing Time”, USCIS.
Arrayed by the size of the increase in the backlogs; all listed have more than 200,000 cases).

Comments. One remarkable thing about these statistics is both the low priority given to replacing lost green cards and the volume of such requests.

Google tells us that there are 13.9 million green card holders in the country; that more than one million of them have lost their cards and not had them replaced is noteworthy. This is despite the fact that more than a quarter of a million of them were replaced in these 12 months. So the total number of cards replaced, or seeking to be replaced, is about 1,250,000 — that’s close to one of every 10 people with permanent resident status.

One wonders how many of these “lost” cards have, in fact, been sold to illegal aliens who look something like the legitimate card holder. One wonders to what extent driver’s licenses, a roughly comparable document, are lost.